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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A busy 2015: Get caught up on Next Great City's exciting updates

After months of preparation, we’re excited to announce some big -- and exciting -- developments on behalf of the Next Great City Coalition!

Last year, we hosted participatory, town hall-style meetings wherein member organizations – on behalf of the thousands of Philadelphians they collectively represent – made clear their priorities for the next mayor. After voting and deciding on our top issues for 2015, we got to work researching and refining our recommendations so that we covered all of the bases: Why is this important and what will it do? Are there other cities already doing this well? And, perhaps, the most important question: How do we pay for it?

This hard work culminated in an exciting agenda for 2015 with six brand new, high-impact, feasible actions that the next mayor can take in his or her first term of office that benefit every neighborhood in the City of Philadelphia. On February 18, members of the Next Great City Coalition presented this agenda at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Pop Up Garden in the Shops at Liberty Place. The event received great coverage and introduced our six new recommendations: healthy houses; nourished students; strong, local businesses; trails and bike lane access; clean public spaces; and storm preparedness.  

Next up: On Tuesday, March 3, the Coalition is hosting its BOOKED TO CAPACITY Philadelphia Mayoral Candidates’ Forum at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Hundreds of people have registered to attend. The event is being hosted in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show, “Celebrate the Movies,” and is being co-presented by the Healthy Rowhouse Project. The event is completely free.

Five candidates have confirmed their attendance: Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, former City Council member Jim Kenney, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, Doug Oliver, and the Hon. Judge Nelson Diaz.

All five candidates will be speaking to the six recommendations the Coalition has proposed and supported for 2015. This will be a great opportunity to kick start a substantive debate in this election so that citizens can make an informed decision about the future of Philadelphia. 

We’ve done a lot in just a few months -- and we can’t wait to get started on the new initiatives we know will help Philadelphia reach its ultimate goal of becoming the Next Great City

Katie Bartolotta is PennFuture's Philadelphia Outreach Coordinator. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

Fly-by: An aerial snapshot of methane emissions

As with so many scientific studies, a preponderance of evidence over a period of time tends to prove a point. That's the lens through which we should assess the study of methane emissions from natural gas drilling operations.

A recent aerial study of three drilling regions in the U.S. including the Marcellus Shale found, based on a single day of data, that methane emissions were at the low end of what other research has suggested. However, notes Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund, it's not cause for celebration just yet as more robust studies over longer periods of time suggest methane emissions are often higher than previous estimates.

"EDF’s own studies – including two released last week looking at the transmission and storage and gathering and processing sectors of the oil and gas industry – have repeatedly shown that random leaks and malfunctions are a major source of emissions," said Brownstein. "Because these events are random, a one-day overflight will not give a full picture of emissions coming from a basin over a day, a month, or a year. What is needed is regular and ongoing monitoring."

The evidence once again speaks to the need for ongoing leak detection and repair programs like those implemented in Colorado, Ohio and Wyoming, and why Pennsylvania must show leadership by enacting strong methane regulations.

"Methane has the potential to undermine the climate benefits natural gas provides over other fossil fuels," says Brownstein. And he's right. Pennsylvania cannot afford to wait.

Elaine Labalme is director of communications for PennFuture as is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @NewGirlInTown.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hundreds of Philadelphians are ready for March 3

In less than three weeks, Next Great City Coalition is hosting its Philadelphia Mayoral Candidates’ Forum at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Hundreds of people have signed up for the event to hear the candidates address issues that affect our city. This did not happen by accident – we have an engaged citizenry that cares about the future of Philadelphia.

The Coalition is proud of the substantive agenda it has put together for 2015, and we are excited to share it far and wide. With a public reveal slated for next week, we believe that because of the size and diversity of our coalition – over 100 member organizations multiplied by the number of members each one of those organizations boasts – we have something to share that will resonate with residents in every neighborhood in the city. The agenda stems from what Philadelphians experience daily – it’s for the person whose child has asthma, whose sidewalks and storm drains are littered with trash, and who needs a safe path to get to work without needing a car. 

For the past eight years, members of the Next Great City Coalition have made bold recommendations and worked with our city’s leadership to make them a reality. We seek an extraordinary, constructive partnership with Philadelphia’s next Mayor that produces results and improves residents’ lives.

Philadelphia has come a long way and has proven its ability to come together to take actions that get right to the heart of what will make this city great. Join us on March 3 and let's keep moving the city forward. Together.

Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

Ready, set, count! The Great Backyard Bird Count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun event that engages bird watchers of all ages and walks of life in counting birds. Participating is simple: all you need to do is count the number and types of birds you see for 15 minutes (or as long as you like) on one or more days of the four-day event and report your sightings on the website. You can count birds from your kitchen window, your favorite state park, or anywhere in the world. And you don’t need to be an expert, either: beginning bird watchers are encouraged to participate. During the count, you can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting.

The 18th annual GBBC runs from Friday, February 13 through Monday, February, 16 and is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society along with many international partners.

Scientists will use the data submitted to get the “big picture” about what’s happening with bird populations. Through long-term data collection and analysis, they can begin investigating how weather and climate change will impact bird populations, or how diseases such as West Nile virus are affecting birds. But these good folks can't do it without your data.

So, what are you waiting for? Go count birds!

Jennifer Quinn is central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg. She tweets @QuinnJen1.

BREAKING: Gov. Tom Wolf proposes a 5 percent severance tax on natgas drilling in PA

John Norbeck, acting president and CEO of PennFuture, today issued the following statement regarding Gov. Wolf's proposed 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling activity in Pennsylvania:

Gov. Wolf has heeded the call of Pennsylvanians, who strongly support a severance tax on natural gas drilling in the Keystone state,” said John Norbeck, acting president and CEO of PennFuture. “Pennsylvania is currently the largest natural gas-producing state without a severance tax, and it's time that drillers pay their fair share. As the governor noted, a portion of the tax will deal with the environmental impacts of drilling, an inherently industrial activity. We urge him to also apportion funding from this tax toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Pennsylvania has a history of extractive industries that have harmed the environment and left successive generations to pay for the damage. Gov. Wolf's actions today clearly show that this pattern will come to a close.
The governor is making it clear that the rights of the citizens of Pennsylvania come first, and the Sheriff is back in town when it comes to natural gas drilling. We cheered his reinstatement less than two weeks ago of the moratorium on new drilling leases of public lands, and applaud his actions today on taxing shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Enacting a rule to control methane emissions from natural gas operations should be next on Gov. Wolf's list, a move supported by 70 percent of Pennsylvanians in a recent poll.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

An opportunity for substantive dialogue in Philadelphia

In less than one month, the Next Great City Coalition will be hosting the first-announced Philadelphia Mayoral Candidates’ Forum on March 3 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

In a race that has so far been described as “vacuous,” this forum presents an opportunity to kick start a substantive dialogue in the run-up to this year’s Philadelphia mayoral primary. As a guiding principle, the Next Great City has always made recommendations to the Mayor that are largely tangible and practical but also high-impact. Our soon-to-be-released agenda for 2015 identifies six key initiatives that will lead to renewed investment, energy and strength in the city's neighborhoods while supporting sustainable practices and an effective city government. Each recommendation features detailed action steps that not only propose what should be improved upon, but also how.

At the forum, we’re asking candidates questions that are specific to the agenda, ensuring that the dialogue addresses the wide range of sustainability policy areas that were chosen democratically by our diverse coalition members – with each organization bringing a very different perspective to the issues facing the city of Philadelphia.

We don’t have to wait for the forum to start having conversations about where Philadelphia is headed. We’re inviting social media users to post a photo to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts (with the hashtag #nextgreatcity) that they believe make clear Philadelphia is on its way to becoming the Next Great City.

Make your priorities for the next mayoral administration heard today and on March 3!

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

Video: Energy switching in six minutes: Part 2

Last week, we quizzed you about your energy supplier. Did you pass? If not, here's your chance.

Energy Switching Series,created by Nicole Catino for PennFuture
This week's energy switching video outlines how to swap your default supplier for a renewable energy supplier in three easy steps.

Pennsylvania's electricity supply is dominated by coal - a heavily polluting fossil fuel. Over the years, PennFuture has worked hard to control unhealthy pollution from coal emissions while also building a market for solar and wind electricity in the state. One victory on the latter front is the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), which requires the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to generate a small percentage of electricity from wind and solar alongside other alternative sources. The AEPS, among other factors, has helped build a renewable energy market in our state, including 25 utility scale wind energy projects and over 8,000 large and small solar energy projects.

With renewable energy available, how can you make sure that you are powering your lights, computer and refrigerator without contributing to smog and climate change? Buy clean energy for your home or business. Watch the video to learn how.

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