Pennsylvania’s New Draft Climate Change Plan Has No Emissions Reduction Goal


Welcome to PennsylvaniaA draft update to Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Action Plan doesn’t set a target for emissions reductions in the state, which ranks third in energy-related emissions in the U.S.

As StateImpact Pennsylvania reports, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection says the new draft plan doesn’t set a goal for emissions reductions because the state doesn’t require one. Previously, Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Action Plan — which was first released in 2009 and is required by state to be updated every three years — set a reduction target of 30 percent by 2020.

Instead of strict goals, the plan lays out different ways Pennsylvania can reduce its emissions — a method of prioritizing options that Eric Shirk, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania DEP, said was more important to the state than setting an emissions reductions goal.

“The work groups identified many different paths you can take to bring emissions down,” he said. “It was more important to show options rather than just set a goal.”

But some members of the Climate Change Advisory Committee, the group of environmental and energy industry representatives that’s meant to lend expertise to the plan-drafting process, weren’t happy about the way the draft plan turned out.

“A greenhouse gas goal is kind of part of the definition of what a greenhouse plan is,” Christina Simeone, director of the PennFuture Energy Center for Enterprise and the Environment, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We just have an emissions inventory and a bunch of workplans.”

State Rep. Greg Vitali (D) also lamented the plan’s lack of emissions reductions goal.

“We need to know what the goal is and how to get to the goal,” he told StateImpact Pennsylvania. “This was done in 2009. It should be done again. It’s just so basic.”

If Pennsylvania were to adopt a target-free climate change plan, it wouldn’t be the first state to do so — 36 states, plus D.C., have climate action plans, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, but only 20 have set emissions reductions targets.

The draft action plan’s release comes just weeks after Pennsylvania’s new DEP head, who has said he doesn’t think climate change is harmful, was confirmed. During his Senate confirmation hearings, new DEP Head Chris Abruzzo said he hasn’t read “any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude there are adverse impacts to human beings, animals, or plant life at this small level of climate change.” Abruzzo said during his hearing that the state was doing its “fair share” and didn’t need to adopt any new climate change policies. The statement sparked a campaign and outcry among environmentalists in the state, but Abruzzo was still confirmed by a 42 – 8 vote.

Climate change has been a controversial subject in Pennsylvania even before Abruzzo’s confirmation, however. The DEP’s previous head also questioned how much humans play a role in climate change, saying that there is “no agreement about how much is attributable to the human part of it and how much is attributable to other factors.” The state tried to suppress part of a climate impacts report that cited research critical of natural gas — when the report was finally released in October, it was a year and a half past its state-mandated deadline. The draft Climate Change Action Plan, too, has missed its 2012 deadline.