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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Preserve the integrity of the Allegheny Front

This post originally appeared at Save Allegheny Mountain, where you can learn more about our efforts to protect the Allegheny Front. 

In a year-end interviewPennFuture's president, Cindy Dunn, highlights the importance of preserving the integrity of the Allegheny Front in 2015 and beyond. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's potential plans to cut a six-lane gash through Whitehorse Mountain, part of the Allegheny Front, threatens one of our state's most beautiful and important landscape features. Referring to the possibility of the Turnpike Commission cutting a notch out of the top of the mountain, instead of fixing or expanding the existing tunnel, Dunn says an open cut...

"would have a devastating environmental consequence. It'd be removing a big piece of the mountain. We're working with the local hunting and fishing club there whose land would be destroyed. We think this has important value to biodiversity and these mountaintop ridges are important migratory pathways...plants need ways to expand."  

Valessa Souter-Kline is western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @ValessaSK.

Save the date: Next Great City's Philadelphia Mayoral Forum

Exciting news from Philadelphia - the Next Great City coalition has announced the date of its quadrennial Mayoral Forum! 

The event is to be held on Tuesday, March 3 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadelphia Flower Show, "Celebrate the Movies." Dave Davies of WHYY FM will serve as moderator. 

The forum will serve as an opportunity to ask the candidates running for Mayor if they share our vision for a Philadelphia where every neighborhood is healthy, clean, and safe, and is served by an effective government. 

Event Details

What: Philadelphia's Next Great City Coalition's Mayoral Forum 

When: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 from 6 - 8 p.m.

Where: Pennsylvania Convention Center

Hosted by: The Next Great City coalition, a group of over 100 civic, environmental, labor and business organizations that has been working in partnership for the betterment of the city since 2007. 

Questions or interested in volunteering?: Email Katie Bartolotta at

Hope to see you there!

Katie Bartolotta is PennFuture's Philadelphia outreach coordinator. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

New poll: Widespread bipartisan support for stronger methane pollution standards

Via the American Lung Association
Americans across the country overwhelmingly support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishing the first federal limits on methane emissions in the air they breathe, according to new data released today from a nationwide, bipartisan survey conducted for the American Lung Association. Moreover, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of American voters support the efforts of the EPA to establish stricter air pollution standards overall and believes that EPA scientists, not Congress, should be the ones to make these decisions.

"It is clear that the public supports stronger public health safeguards for the air we breathe," said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Cutting methane and toxic air pollutants like benzene is a winner with the American people. We urge the Environmental Protection Agency to act now."

Voters rated clean air as a higher priority than reducing regulations on businesses, with 80 percent of voters rating it as extremely or very important. By more than a three-to-one margin (69 percent in favor to 21percent opposed), voters want the EPA, not Congress to set the nation’s air pollution standards.  

On the specific issue of methane pollution standards to address air pollution from the oil and gas industry, an overwhelming two-to-one majority favors new methane emissions standards from the EPA. Support for the new standards actually grew after voters heard simulated and balanced arguments that included the strongest messages from both sides of the issue (including attacks from opponents on cost and jobs), resulting in majority support across the political spectrum, including from Republicans.
Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's Director of Outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Boom: Applying lessons learned to our own energy future

On July 6, 2013, a train carrying volatile crude oil from North Dakota exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people and incinerating the downtown. Since then, three oil trains have exploded on the U.S. side of the border, where the surge in domestic oil production now sends millions of trainloads of crude through cities and small towns.  
The Weather Channel and InsideClimate News teamed up to investigate the problem of exploding railcars in "Boom: America's Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem." The documentary accompanies an investigation by reporters Marcus Stern and Sebastian Jones, who explain why federal regulations to protect the public have been stalled by the railroads and the oil industry.

"Boom: America's Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem" is a ten-minute documentary borne of an investigative effort by the Weather Channel and InsideClimate News. The documentary highlights the tragic crude train explosion in Lac-Megantic as a cautionary tale for Americans in the wake of increased domestic oil production and, effectively, increased crude-by-rail traffic.

This topic shouldn't be new to Philadelphians who had a close call with a crude oil derailment in January of this year. As Philadelphia contemplates its own energy future, it's important that we discuss the potential safety implications on our densely populated urban area.

The full video can be found here.

Katie Bartolotta is PennFuture's Philadelphia outreach coordinator and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

If these mines could talk, they would hear an ECHO

If Pennsylvania has a patron saint when it comes to abandoned mine reclamation, it would be John Dawes, the executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania's Watersheds. The foundation specializes in facilitating grants to environmental and watershed associations statewide. This seed money allows groups to leverage it for additional funding from state and federal agencies.

John is clearly passionate about the issue of abandoned mine reclamation and, in 2006, he led the effort for the reauthorization of the federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund. Since that time, the fund has contributed significant monies to Pennsylvania for historic mine reclamation. These monies come in the form of a coal tonnage fee, currently 32 cents per ton.

It is the championing of this effort that prompted the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining to today bestow its 2014 ECHO Award on John Dawes. In this case, “ECHO” stands for “Environment, Community, Humanity and Ownership,” and John lives and breathes those concepts, possessing a deep understanding of land and water issues in Pennsylvania and bringing together coalitions that effect positive change on the landscape.

It was the Pennsylvania delegation that led the charge for the reauthorization of the AML Fund almost a decade ago, a campaign which John was honored to chair. PennFuture was equally honored to work alongside John to help make this happen.

Prior to the reauthorization of the law, monies to states for mine reclamation was handled via appropriations committee. It is now mandatory spending. Last year, Pennsylvania received $59 million from the federal government for its mine reclamation efforts.

In addition to helping to restore landscapes, streams, and communities, reclamation efforts provide jobs, whether it's land grading, reforestation or installing storm water controls.

John Dawes is one of the most committed environmentalists and conservationists I know, and his consistent pursuit of remediation for the environmental impacts of our coal mining legacy has resulted in improvement for hundreds of miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania.

If our abandoned mines could talk, they would be thanking John for making them whole again. PennFuture can't thank him enough for his good work on behalf of our land and water in Pennsylvania.

Cindy Dunn is president and CEO of PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PennFuture Gives Back on #GivingTuesday

Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday.
#GivingTuesday logo And now #GivingTuesday.
On December 2, people around the world came together to give back and focus on philanthropy, advocacy, volunteerism, and education.

It's a simple idea: Find a way to get your family, your community, your organization to come together to give something more. We agree.
It's an annual event that invites you to make a contribution to a non-profit organization that does good work you support. In the spirit of the day, PennFuture's staff decided to create its own #GivingTuesday Giving Back Award by taking up a collection and distributing the proceeds to regional organizations that do the kind of work we support.
This past Tuesday, presentations were made to four worthy groups in each of our four offices. Each group received an award certificate, a handmade up-cycled trophy, and a check to help them continue their good work.

The staff donation was completely voluntary and no limits were set, but we got excited and were able to present each of our awardees a sum of $437.50!
PennFuture's 2014 #GivingTuesday Giving Back Award winners
#GivingTuesday :: 12.02.2014 :: GivingBack Harrisburg Rain Barrel CoalitionCentral Giving Back Award (Harrisburg)
Harrisburg Rain Barrel Coalition
#GivingTuesday :: 12.02.2014 :: GivingBack N. Pocono CARENortheast Giving Back Award (Wilkes-Barre)
North Pocono CARE
#GivingTuesday :: 12.02.2014 :: GivingBack Vetri Fdn for ChildrenSoutheast Giving Back Award (Philadelphia)
Vetri Foundation for Children
#GivingTuesday :: 12.02.2014 :: GivingBack Allegheny Counnty Clean Air NowWest Giving Back Award (Pittsburgh)
Allegheny County Clean Air Now
If you believe in what we do, please consider PennFuture for your donation dollars during this giving season so that we can continue to help protect the water you drink and the air you breathe, and advance renewable energy and energy efficiency. Even a little can go a long way.

It's something you can do for yourself that will benefit many — and that's #unselfie.

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

Highlights from PennFuture's Post-Election Forum

Before a packed house at The Civic Club of Harrisburg, PennFuture hosted a Post-Election Forum on Energy and the Environment. Panelists included Rep. Kate Harper, Rep. Greg Vitali, PennLive's opinion editor John Micek, PennFuture President Cindy Dunn, and -- yours truly -- director of outreach, Andrew Sharp. Political scientist and pollster Dr. Terry Madonna delivered the keynote address.

If you couldn't make it, we've assembled a sampling of tweets from the event. Topics included drilling in parks, clean air, land, and water, methane regulations, and what Governor-elect TomWolf's 100-day agenda would look like.

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge.