HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — The push by many U.S. municipalities to reduce carbon emissions, by phasing out fossil fuels in homes and buildings, is gaining steam. However, so are Republican counter-efforts at the state level.
Municipalities in nearly a dozen states have adopted decarbonization policies, like zero emission building ordinances. Some are for new construction, and others for when it’s time to remodel or replace certain appliances.
According to the Building Decarbonization Coalition, 100 municipalities in eleven states have adopted zero emission ordinances in an effort to phase out of fossil fuels. Some advocates want to make sure those policies do not find their way into the commonwealth, and are pushing for “Energy Choice” legislation.
“Energy Choice is incredibly important here in a state like Pennsylvania,” said Emily Greene, Deputy State Director for Americans for Prosperity (AFP) – PA. “We are absolutely committed to making sure that there’s no new regulations on certain types of energy, because we know that increases the price of gas across the board,” she added.
Greene believes the government should not determine how residents heat their homes or cook their meals.
“It is just not the proper role of government to determine how people are going to cook their food,” said Greene, who supports banning the ban on natural gas, or energy choice legislation.
“Putting this bill forward, from my perspective, is ensuring that we have energy choice and that consumers are going to have affordable, reliable energy,” said first-term Representative Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks). “When I was door knocking in the last year, a number of people were talking to me about their concerns on their bills, their gas prices, what their utility bills would be,” she added.
Rep. Marcell plans to sponsor an energy choice bill in the House and says banning energy like, natural gas, is already driving up prices in places like California.
“I think it’s concerning when you see other states taking those actions, because eventually they may end up coming here as well,” said Marcell. “At the end of the day, most of those measures have increased costs for consumers, and that’s exactly what we want to try to avoid,” Marcell added.
However, energy choice legislation is concerning for climate advocates like Karen Feridun with the Better Path Coalition.
“Absolutely, it’s problematic,” said Feridun, adding that Pennsylvania is literally hooked on natural gas. “Any time they use energy- something, energy choice, substitute in the word natural gas. This is all about perpetuating the industry, allowing them to continue to do business as usual,” she added.
She says every town and city is different and should be able to chart their own course.
“If municipalities want to support things like that, they shouldn’t be prohibited from doing it,” said Feridun. “Everything we can do to start improving our energy grid and keeping natural gas as the phased-out fuel that it should be, is absolutely necessary,” she added.
Feridun says the commonwealth is in dire need of leaders who are not afraid to stand up to the natural gas industry.
“As long as we don’t have that, then we better have local governments that are willing to do it,” said Feridun. “What we really need to have in Pennsylvania is just a reform, top to bottom, of the way that this state approaches the natural gas industry. We are running out of time to deal with climate change. We need to get off natural gas,” she added.
Energy choice legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 143, passed the upper chamber last week with bipartisan support. It awaits consideration from the House Local Government Committee.