RGGI Testimony-Mark Smith, Advocate for Climate Justice and Supporter of PA IPL

Good evening. My name is Mark Smith. I live in Philadelphia and am speaking to you as a citizen in support of our commonwealth becoming the eleventh state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

RGGI is already a resounding success in the 10 states currently enrolled in the program reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over a third, raising $3 billion for clean energy re-investments and outpacing states not participating in the program by over 90% in emissions reductions! An analysis by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection indicates that PA will have a similar benefit creating over 27,000 jobs and adding $1.9 billion to the state’s economy.  

The climate is changing dramatically from the burning of fossil fuels but the pollution they cause has another, more immediate effect on public health, especially for disadvantaged and people of color who tend to live in closest proximity to power plants. As a major electricity producer Pennsylvania can transform from one of the most polluting states to one that experiences a $6 billion savings in health benefits by 2030 that would include a reduction in tens of thousands of asthma attacks and fewer cases of childhood bronchitis. 

The average temperature is expected to rise by 5.4 degrees by 2050 and the number of days with a heat index above 90 degrees will increase from 8 to 40 per year. Extreme summer heat will effect urban poor and people of color inordinately, not only because they have less resources to respond, but because the heat island effect in many urban areas with higher amounts of heat absorbing concrete and asphalt can have daily temperature differences of 10 to 20 degrees compared to suburban and rural areas. The forecast increases in temperatures and changes in climate without taking action will have a major impact on Pennsylvania’s agriculture economy, as well.

RGGI will be a positive catalyst for the market forces already in action as the country transforms to sustainable methods of power generation that do not include the burning of fossil fuels. Even though the jobs created in the new energy economy will grow Pennsylvania’s overall employment numbers, it will be important to use income from RGGI to specifically address people employed in industries directly effected in the transition. Lower income groups that will be inordinately disadvantaged by climate change should have a significant portion of RGGI income made available for home repair, weatherization and relief from RGGI related rate increases.

Changes in economy and employment for Pennsylvania and the country have been constantly transforming since the early days of the nation and our ability to change along with it is part of our success. As an example, I have lived in Pennsylvania for 34 years but grew up in Ohio. Most of my ancestors arrived from Europe through the port of Philadelphia and farmed for several generations in various parts of Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio to continue farming.  My parents were the last generation to grow up on farms. As an adult, my father was employed by the local electric utility and worked with farmers in making the transition to electricity and automation in their dairy operations.

So, agriculture, industry, and the ways in which we obtain energy will continue to change. However, this is an exceptional time that requires foresight into a future that will have catastrophic results if the crisis of climate change is not met head on. Systemic changes are needed to work more effectively together as a country and support the sustainable market forces that are shaping our future. RGGI’s already proven record of success demonstrates support for business and families while dramatically curbing CO2 emissions.

I urge the Environmental Quality Board to make the adjustments recommended, affirm the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and pass it on to the Governor for implementation. Thank you for your time.