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PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Join us for a better Future

PennFuture President and CEO, Cindy Dunn, recently sat down to reflect on the year just past and, in doing so, shared our story for 2013. We welcome your support in 2014 and invite you to consider membership, or renew an existing membership, before year's end.

Here's what Cindy had to say:

At PennFuture, we remain ever vigilant on your behalf against intrusions that would damage public health and natural resources across Pennsylvania, and undermine your constitutional rights.

This past year, we found ourselves working in all corners of the state, being first when it matters to you in:
  • protecting our state parks and forests from shale gas drilling.
  • winning an agreement from a merging gas company to establish a gas energy efficiency program, and increasing funding for energy efficiency for low-income customers, as part of the terms of the merger.
  • educating the public about our climate work with our affiliate partner, the National Wildlife Federation.
  • being the state lead in the Choose Clean Water Coalition, supporting the work to clean waters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the Susquehanna River.
  • leading the way to inform the public about the importance of new building codes for a safer and more energy efficient state.
  • securing a legislative victory in Act 68, the new stormwater law that will provide municipalities the option to create stormwater authorities.
  • fighting to conserve threatened and endangered species
Our Board of Directors has issued a challenge to anyone new** who joins PennFuture by the end of the year: During the month of December, our Board will match any new member's donation* dollar for dollar for an aggregate total of $3,000.00. Join as a new member and help your dollars go farther!

You can sign up at our secure website.

I am privileged to lead this organization and to work alongside colleagues who are tremendous champions of the environment. Rest assured, your support, at every level, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Thank you,
Cindy A. Dunn
President and CEO, PennFuture

  * Special membership rate is effective 12/1 - 12/31, 2013.
** New members are considered to be individuals who have not previously donated to PennFuture.

Mary Kane is the events and development associate for PennFuture, based in Harrisburg.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last minute City Council amendments could prevent PWD from making critical investments

"If you let politicians set water rates, we'll all be drinking mud."
Those words were uttered by someone who knows a thing or two about Philly politicians, former Mayor and Council President John Street

On Thursday, City Council is set to vote on a bill that will allow a board of political appointees to set water rates. 

Currently, water rates are set through a public hearing process in which the Mayor and City Council select a hearing officer and a public advocate, with the final decision to approve rates made by the Water Commissioner. 

While not perfect (or completely devoid of politics), the process has allowed the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) to maintain water infrastructure and set rates that ensure we have clean drinking water. [PennFuture intervened in both the 2009 and 2012 rate proceedings.]

The current rate process has afforded the City the ability to make badly needed investments in stormwater infrastructure through its Green City Clean Waters initiative, the City's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-mandated plan to protect and enhance our water supply by managing stormwater. 

But thanks to a ballot question last November -- and last-minute amendments in City Council last week -- things could change, and soon. And not in a good way

Let's back up: Last November, voters approved a ballot question to create an "independent" rate-making board. (Not surprising given that Philly tends to approve the cleverly-crafted ballot questions). PennFuture opposed the ballot question at the time, as it will instantly burden the process with more political actors who may not understand the need to balance low rates with the need to create a good water system.




On Thursday, City Council will vote on a bill that will officially create this rate-making board and regulate how the rates are imposed. 

But missing from that bill are key provisions that would provide the water department basic fiscal certainty -- fiscal certainty that is needed to protect our water supply, maintain aging infrastructure, and adapt to unforeseen economic circumstances. 

Amendments introduced last Thursday removed essential minimum financial standards that had been negotiated with the Water Department, City Council, and stakeholder groups -- standards that  would help guarantee that the department has rates set high enough to cover operating expenses and debt service. 

In June, a bill passed out of committee that did just that. We testified in support of the original unamended bill at the committee hearing because it gave the department the best chance to continue its crucial stormwater work and adequately invest in key infrastructure projects. 

In addition to harming the Water Department's ability to carry out its mission, the lack of basic financial standards could damage the department's credit rating and cause concern among bond holders -- ultimately leading to higher rates for all ratepayers. 

We urge you to contact your Councilmember and tell them that the Water Department needs basic financial certainty to do its job and provide clean, safe drinking water. 


Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's Director of Outreach and works out of our Philadelphia office. 




Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#BreakingNews: Philly will get a land bank

We are pleased to report that an agreement has been reached in Philadelphia City Council on the outlines of a land bank bill. While detailed language on proposed amendments is still being finalized at this hour, we are optimistic that Philadelphians will get what they deserve this holiday season: A land bank that will transform our vacant spaces into community assets in a more accountable, transparent and equitable manner. We thank the Council President, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and the Nutter Administration for their hard work and look forward to continuing our dialogue to make the land bank a reality. 




PennFuture was one of several groups to spearhead the creation of the Philly Land Bank Alliance -- a diverse group of stakeholders all working together to advocate for a land bank in Philadelphia. In March 2013, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez introduced legislation to create a Philadelphia land bank. Members of the alliance represent a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from neighborhood advocates and community development corporations to market rate developers and advocates for small businesses, green space and food access. 

We'll keep you posted once amendments are finalized and a bill is passed. 


Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and works in our Philadelphia office.

What would you do?

How would you feel if I told you that by living in your chosen city, you have elevated your risk of having cancer -- and your children's risk? Pittsburghers learned exactly how it feels last week when the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) released a report that said just that.

As part of its Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threat Analysis (PRETA), CHEC concluded that residents of southwestern Pennsylvania, particularly those in Allegheny County, have a significantly higher than acceptable risk of developing cancer due to exposure to air toxics. In fact, Allegheny County places in the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in terms of cancer risk.

It's pretty scary stuff. Reports like CHEC's are often dismissed by policymakers and citizens alike, but this one resonates in a way that others haven't because it feels so personal. What would you do to reduce your cancer risk? Would you switch to a clean energy provider? Take public transit? Stop idling in your car? Write the mayor-elect to tell him how important it is to you that Pittsburgh addresses air toxics? 

Maybe what you do isn't as important as the act of choosing to do something. I challenge our wonderful readers to make that choice this week. If you do, please tweet your action to us at @PennFuture. For more suggestions, check out these actions from the Breathe Project, or the recommendations in the shared statement we put out with our environmental partners last week.

Tiffany Hickman is PennFuture's western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator, based in Pittsburgh.

Join us for the PennFuture Holiday Party Crawl!

Pick your favorite city for a PennFuture holiday party, or come to all four -- our new president and CEO, Cindy Dunn, will be doing just that. Time to celebrate the holiday season with your favorite environmental organization!

The first party kicks off on Thursday, December 5 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in our Wilkes-Barre office at 8 West Market Street. We look forward to filling you in on what’s happening on the front lines for Pennsylvania’s environment. Enjoy a mix of local and organic hors d’oeuvres and drinks while listening to great music by NEPA’s own Big Daddy Dex.

Rest up over the weekend and hit the next party week running.

Party in the capital city on Monday, December 9 from 5 - 7:30 p.m. in our Harrisburg office at 610 N. 3rd Street. We are right across from the capitol building so you never know who might stop by. Rub elbows with fellow members, environmentalists, legislators, lobbyists, and like-minded folks.

Keep the party crawl going and join us in our Center City Philadelphia office at 1500 Walnut Street on Tuesday, December 10 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Home to the PennFuture Energy Center, we're eager to hear your thoughts about how we can best support the environment as we promote a clean energy economy.

Enjoy another breather before we, in the best Pittsburgh tradition, redd up for a party in our dahntahn Pittsburgh office at 200 First Avenue on Tuesday, December 17 from 5:30 – 8p.m. Expect good food, beverages warm and cool, and an update on what we have planned for 2014.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and we can’t think of anyone else we would rather spend it with than YOU!

Please RSVP for whichever -- or all -- parties you would like to attend on our Events page.

Here's looking forward to more environmental successes in 2014, and thanks again for your steadfast support.

Mary Kane is PennFuture's events and development associate, working out of our Harrisburg office. She is wicked with a pun.