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Vitali: Legislation introduced to reduce Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions

State Rep. Greg Vitali (D, Delaware) has unveiled legislation designed to encourage Pennsylvania to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a news conference today in the Capitol. He was joined by representatives of environmental organizations, a professor and a legislator who voiced support for the legislation.

“Pennsylvania has a duty to work toward carbon neutrality because it produces almost one percent of the world’s greenhouse gases,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “The legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf must find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy.”

To work toward that goal, Vitali has introduced three bills that would increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, permanently fund the Sunshine Solar program and reduce the demand for energy.

State Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, said Vitali has proposed “modest legislative changes that will go a long way in encouraging a culture change in how we – as consumers – think about energy, energy consumption and climate change.”

Vitali today introduced House Bills 100, 129 and 200.

H.B. 100 would increase the state’s Tier I Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards to 15 percent by 2023. The current rate is 8 percent by 2021.

H.B. 129 would require natural gas distribution companies to reduce energy consumption and demand by 1 percent by 2018 and 3 percent by 2020. These are the same requirements currently placed on electric distribution companies under Act 129 of 2008.

H.B. 200 would establish a dedicated funding source for the PA Sunshine Solar Program. The program, which has exhausted its funding, helps homeowners and businesses install solar systems. The program would receive $25 million a year from a 1.25-mill increase on the utilities’ Gross Receipts Tax.

In answer to a question from reporters, Vitali said that with big immediate issues before the legislature, “It’s definitely going to be a tough issue given the composition of the legislature. The legislature is very conservative but when Gov. Rendell got his clean energy program through…it was horse trading. You need a governor to prioritize…a lot can be done through the executive branch; a lot can be done through horse trading. My goal is to set out what should be done so these issues won’t be forgotten.”

“It’s a tough sell. Things like gay marriage seemed like such an impossible task a decade ago, things like medical marijuana seemed like a tough sell a decade ago but you see these issues over time hit tipping points and suddenly through some event or action they become more politically difficult to vote against than vote for. You have to keep plugging at this vitally important issue, keep moving the issue toward that tipping point.”