Wolf issues executive order curbing state carbon emissions

Wolf issues executive order curbing state carbon emissions

Author: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Tuesday, January 8, 2019/Categories: News and Views

Governor Tom Wolf announced a preemptive strike against climate change via executive order in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

Believing that climate change poses a significant risk, Wolf wants to see state operations reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The order sets three goals, non binding upon the completion of his final term as governor in 2022.

They are to reduce energy consumption by three percent per year, replace 25 percent of the state passenger car fleet with electric hybrid cars by 2025, and use renewable energy resources offsetting 40 percent of the commonwealth’s annual electricity use.

The hope, Wolf said, is to boost sustainable practices for the state’s future regardless of the federal government’s actions or lack thereof.

“In the absence of leadership from the federal government, states and cities are stepping up and doing their part to reduce emissions,” Wolf said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the governor clarified that they are in line with the Paris Accord, an international treaty meant to keep the average temperature of the Earth from heating over 1.5 additional degrees Celsius.

Pennsylvania is the second largest energy producing state and third largest carbon emitter. Per capita, it has the highest rate of carbon emissions in the entire northeast, per the Energy Information Administration.

The announcement came during an event where Peoples Gas committed to cutting methane emissions within the city by 50 percent, using leak detection methods in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach.

The move also drew praise from other state environmental groups.

The change also drew cautious optimism from PA Chamber head Gene Barr, who insisted that the best emissions reductions would come from a competitive, free market approach free of government mandates.

“Any approach to greenhouse gas regulations should be balanced, making sure to leverage the state’s great energy assets and encourage private sector competition without stifling potential economic growth,” he said in a statement.

Environmental issues are poised to be at the center of the conversation next session, from a cap-and-trade proposal from advocacy groups in the state’s regulatory review system to newly proposed methane regulations and the brewing fight over a nuclear bailout.

To ensure a cohesive effort in reducing air pollution throughout the state, the order establishes the GreenGov Council which will collaborate with state agencies to create jobs and encourage energy efficiency.

Additionally, the council will implement sustainable practices into the government’s policies and operations.

“Commonwealth agencies can continue to demonstrate their commitment to both environmental and fiscal stewardship by implementing best practices to reduce energy and resource consumption, improve energy efficiency, realize cost savings, and protect the environment,” Wolf said.

The council will be co-chaired by the secretaries of the departments of Environmental Protection, General Services, and Conservation and Natural Resources.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchel is a staff writer for The PLS Reporter based in Pittsburgh. Have a question, comment or tip? Email her at atiya@mypls.com.