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Philadelphians Must Protect Themselves from Climate Change
Opinion

Philadelphians Must Protect Themselves from Climate Change

(Because President Trump Won’t)

Guest column by Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council

Recently, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its latest move to undo commonsense environmental protections and further weaken federal efforts to slow climate change and its harmful effects on our planet and society. The EPA has proposed a rule rolling back oil and gas industry regulations on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s a major contributor to climate change. This rollback must be stopped. If you agree, you can submit an official comment here.

“Even large oil and gas companies like Exxon and Shell oppose weakening these methane emissions standards.”

The original 2015 New Source Performance Standards for oil and gas infrastructure is a concrete policy step that reduces protections and oversight in an industry that’s a major source of air pollution and planet-warming emissions. When methane leaks, it is accompanied by volatile organic compounds, which include known carcinogens and also contribute to ground-level ozone — the main constituent of smog. Even large oil and gas companies like Exxon and Shell oppose weakening these methane emissions standards.

Yet President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are forging ahead despite rising temperatures, increased precipitation, and more extreme weather events. May 2018 to April 2019 are the wettest twelve months in U.S. history. For the first time in 120 years of records, average rainfall over 12 months was above 36 inches.

We’re feeling these effects of global warming here in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Higher temperatures are creating additional risks for heat-related illnesses, increased respiratory issues, and prolonged allergy seasons. Flooding from increased precipitation and more extreme weather is projected to increase in the Mid-Atlantic region. Indoor mold is a growing problem in Philadelphia’s rowhomes, apartment buildings, and schools.

By actively dismantling protections that would reduce these dangerous effects of climate change, President Trump has left people to fend for themselves. Fortunately, there are still effective steps that folks can take.

Weatherizing your home can save you money on utility bills and decrease your contribution to climate change while literally insulating you and your family. You can create emergency response plans to stay safe in extreme weather and contact city agencies to report hazardous conditions here.

The Clean Air Council is committed to helping Philadelphia residents learn more about protecting themselves from climate change. Through partnerships like Climate Ready Philly and the Philadelphia Health and Environment Ethnography Lab, we offer outreach and workshops focused on climate change resilience and air quality. The Climate Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) lead by the Franklin Institute just published a complete overview of its astonishing last five years of climate-focused community outreach in Philadelphia. We’re hosting an event on September 24th focused on monitoring air quality for Kensington residents.

Clean Air Council

Focusing on air quality and other effects of climate change is a good start, but individuals can only do so much. These efforts must be accompanied by comprehensive action on a national and global scale. Federal standards currently ensure all-natural gas facilities constructed since September 2015 undergo comprehensive, routine inspections to detect and repair harmful methane leaks. These standards have worked for over three years to reduce emissions from Pennsylvania’s rapidly expanding oil and gas industry, while also limiting residents’ exposure to pollution from surrounding states. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we have just 11 years to cut methane and other greenhouse emissions nearly in half to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change. It’s disgraceful that we must fight to save the bare-minimum protections against climate change that are already on the books when so much more needs to be done.

President Trump and Administrator Wheeler aren’t listening to climate scientists, their own policy analysts, or even oil and gas industry leaders as they recklessly forge ahead with their dangerous deregulatory agenda. But they should listen to the American people.

Take action today.

Contact the EPA and your representatives and tell them that rolling back these critical methane protections is unjustified and wrong.

Furthermore, contact your local and state elected officials, including Governor Wolf, and demand that, with the federal government fighting to drag us backward, we need state leadership to implement effective methane pollution standards of our own.

Joseph Otis Minott is executive director and chief counsel for Clean Air Council.


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Joseph Otis Minott, Esq.

1 thought on “Philadelphians Must Protect Themselves from Climate Change

  1. I agree that Philadelphia must protect itself from climate change, but that is unlikely to happen UNLESS new ordinances or regulations are passed that require AMS and other regulatory agencies in the city to follow the 2017 PA Supreme Court ruling on Section 27 and expand how they evaluate environmental impacts on residents beyond merely stating that following the regulations for emissions limits and technology found in existing regulations is good enough to protect people’s rights to a clean environment. The 2017 PA Supreme Court ruling said that doing this was insufficient, yet this is what AMS continues to use to decide that air pollution below emissions limits doesn’t hurt anyone.
    All environmental regulations need to be updated (upgraded), particularly air pollution regulations.
    In addition, there should be limits on excessive heat emissions from facilities with the city.

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