By Chrissy Suttles
Beaver County Times
July 29, 2020 – PennFuture on Tuesday released a report outlining policies climate activists said would amount to $2.8 billion in statewide investments and as many as 389,000 new or preserved jobs.
Leading climate activists want Pennsylvania policymakers to consider a more sustainable approach to the Keystone State’s economic recovery.
Following months of record-high unemployment, PennFuture on Tuesday released a 50-page “green stimulus” report outlining policies the group said would amount to $2.8 billion in statewide investment and as many as 389,000 jobs — including more than 37,000 “shovel-ready” positions.
The road map, in turn, would leverage Pennsylvania’s clean energy and low-carbon industries to reduce pollution, promote a cleaner environment and avoid state budget cuts.
PennFuture’s platform builds on the former Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal public works program that employed millions during the Great Depression. A modern version of the program is popular among environmentalists and some economists.
The group said a Pennsylvania Conservation and Economic Recovery Corps would employ tens of thousands and improve parks, trails and other natural resources.
“Pennsylvania is in a unique spot to do this on it’s own,” said PennFuture executive vice president Matthew Stepp. “We don’t have to wait for federal policymakers.”
Workers would plug abandoned drilling wells, maintain parks, habitats and green stormwater infrastructure, and beautify Main Streets. The state would hire at least 15,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians in the first year for six-month terms, which could be extended based on need.
Gov. Tom Wolf could convene a statewide Green Recovery Summit of local and county officials to develop a sustainable economic recovery framework, creating a priority list of clean infrastructure projects.
Policies identified in the report tackle both short-term recovery and long-term economic strength, Stepp said.
“There are a lot of policies here that have existing bills with bipartisan support, which is good because there’s a foundation for the Legislature to build on,” he said.
Items noted in the report include a cap-and-invest program to fund clean vehicles, and investing millions in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act could be amended to increase the share of electricity Pennsylvania must source from renewables. Authors argued legislators should pressure federal policymakers to pass the RECLAIM Act, which would provide at least $300 million in mine reclamation funding.
Also included in the list of policy suggestions are tax deductions for small business owners who implement safety measures and new operating grants to state Community Development Financial Institutions that support nature-based small businesses, especially in low-income black and brown communities.
“Our recommendations in the report are many and varied, but we staunchly believe they collectively provide a clear vision for recovery and economic stability in Pennsylvania,” said Stepp.
“It’s clear that Pennsylvania is at an inflection point. We either pursue old and tired methods of recovery that rely on slashing budgets and public sector jobs, or we chart a new direction that creates a new and sustainable economy while serving the dual purpose of addressing the climate crisis.”
Many of these investments will require years of cooperation from lawmakers on every level, the group noted
“After generations of relying on polluting and toxic industries to grow the state’s economy, it’s time for Pennsylvania to chart a new path,” said Madeleine Smith, a clean water advocacy campaign manager for PennFuture and a lead author of the report. “This report identifies tangible policy actions Pennsylvania can take to recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis and lead the way towards a more sustainable economy.”
To read the full report, visit http://www.pennfuture.org.