One major reason that I love the Philadelphia area: We were the original innovators in this country. As states bickered and war raged, leaders in our region brought people together at Independence Hall to solve the most pressing problem of that era — how this new country would actually work. Of course, they didn’t get everything right, but they led by doing rather than just talking about it.
As a nation and as a world, we are now called once again to face a new challenge that threatens our collective freedom: climate change. While working as a teacher in Philadelphia, I made sure to teach my kids about that special history in our city while also empowering them to take on this major obstacle that, unfortunately, their generation will need to overcome as well.
Mayor Jim Kenney and Governor Tom Wolf have both renounced President Trump’s foolish and dangerous decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Mayor Kenney has also pledged to move Philadelphia to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2035. I applaud these leaders for standing on the side of science and the future of the planet, but I also think we can do even more.
That’s why I am proposing a bold goal for the Philadelphia region: moving to a completely clean energy economy in the region by 2028.
This is our moonshot. It’s a goal we can all get behind and one that will spur regional development, innovation and job creation. Not to mention it will ensure a healthy environment for future generations. If the Earth dies, there will be no economy to speak of. Let’s not invest in false dichotomies between the environment and economy because they’re not true and they no longer serve us well. They never did.
We can’t cut our way to clean energy — we have to invest. And the Republicans in Congress are doing the opposite of what we need right now. The $54 billion in proposed cuts for the Department of Energy by the current administration means a whopping decrease of $15.4 million for Pennsylvania from our energy projects alone, according to estimates from that agency. Our state is also facing $60.6 million in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, when our state is in dire need of reform for our water systems.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that Pennsylvania will need to invest $14.2 billion into drinking water infrastructure and almost $7 billion in wastewater systems. Pennsylvania, like all other states in the country, is facing elevated levels of lead in our drinking water supplies, as well as increased elevation of pollution in local waterways. Something as basic as clean water for our citizens should never be second-guessed.
Our once-vibrant economy is now only a shadow of what it used to be — thanks to a decline in manufacturing jobs across the country and a lack of opportunity for lower and middle-income residents. We can rebuild this city and region with clean energy. Clean energy jobs are on the rise, and for the first time in history, clean energy job creation is surpassing the fossil fuel industry. Projects like Mariner East 2 in Delaware, Chester, Lancaster, Berks and other counties need to be rethought and retooled into clean energy development projects that provide good jobs for working people, rather than taking us further down the “Fossil Fuel Road to Nowhere.”
In a report issued in February, the nonprofit Solar Foundation reported that twice as many people now work in the solar industry compared to the coal industry. Let’s invest in our workers and train them to work in the renewable energy field. We can move away from fossil fuels and create an entirely new workforce economy in the process. Then our workers will install clean energy solutions that will enable hundreds of thousands of public transit users more efficient transportation to and from work and home.
As an educator, I’ve had to teach and support kids with severe asthma, children born with environmentally-induced birth defects, and students who live just downwind from refineries that cloud their skies and endanger their prospects for a healthy future. I know the real costs of holding on too tightly to an outdated energy industry that desperately needs to evolve. That’s why I’ve been moved to run for Congress.
Our people deserve clean water, clean air, modern infrastructure and stable job opportunities. Period. Our leaders on Capitol Hill and at home must do their part to create those conditions for families to thrive.
Paul Perry is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in the Pennsylvania’s 7th District. For more information visit www.perryforpa.com.