Pa. Legislative Climate Caucus announces 2023 leadership and legislative priorities

Harrisburg, March 3 – The bicameral, bipartisan Pennsylvania Legislative Climate Caucus has elected new officers for the 2023-24 legislative session. In addition, caucus members this week sent a letter to Gov. Josh Shapiro highlighting their priorities for the 2023-24 legislative session ahead of the governor’s 2023 budget address.

The following members have been installed as Climate Caucus officers for 2023-24:

  • Co-chairs: State Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, and State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester
  • Vice chairs, State Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery/Phila., and State Rep. Nancy Guenst, D-Montgomery
  • Secretaries: State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware/Montgomery, and State Rep. Paul Takac, D-Centre

The caucus’s letter emphasizes the need to mitigate future impacts of climate change on communities and advance the causes of environmental, economic and educational justice in the Commonwealth, particularly in marginalized rural and urban communities that have been disproportionately affected by both severe weather and industrial pollution.

Among its priorities, the caucus advocates for the restoration of full funding to the Department of Environmental Protection; continued funding for the Whole Home Repairs program; investments to increase resiliency and emergency energy storage capacity in communities; a commitment to codifying, funding and empowering the Office of Environmental Justice and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board; the expansion of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards requirement from 8% to 30% by 2030; and the adoption of a Clean Energy Standard that would commit Pennsylvania to net-zero by 2050. The letter also references the legislative recommendations of the 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury investigation the unconventional oil and gas industry and requests the administration’s support in passing the resulting legislative proposals to hold the fracking industry accountable.

“Our state budget is a reflection of our shared priorities, and it is critical that this year’s budget includes bold investments in climate action for the long-term health and wellbeing of all communities,” Comitta said. “As we enter budget negotiations, we look forward to working with Governor Shapiro and the new administration on ways to invest in clean energy infrastructure, reduce carbon emissions, and support state agencies in protecting and upholding our constitutional right to clean air and clean water.”

“As legislators, we have a responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the adverse effects of climate change and pollution, whether it be the impacts of severe weather events and stormwater damage or the health consequences arising from polluted air and water,” said Otten, who returns as a caucus co-chair for the 2023-24 legislative session. “Our priorities outline a bold legislative agenda designed to advance the causes of environmental, economic and educational justice in our Commonwealth, and to hold polluters accountable for the impacts of their activities.”

“The Climate Caucus has released an important agenda that addresses the impacts of climate change and pollution on our Commonwealth,” Haywood said. “While the announcement of these policy objectives represents an important first step for the Climate Caucus, it is crucial that we continue to work across the aisle to build bipartisan support.

“The effects of climate change can be felt all around us,” said Guenst. “From devastating floods to erratic, unseasonal weather patterns, there is no denying we need to be proactive in adapting to our changing environment. We have an opportunity to make substantial investments in our infrastructure with an aim to make our collective home safer for all. I look forward to engaging in these discussions throughout budget negotiations to ensure we meet this moment.”

“This year, we have the opportunity to make critical investments in our future that will protect our environment and preserve our home and health for future generations,” Cappelletti said. “Pennsylvania must prioritize funding the systemically underfunded Department of Environmental Protection, ensure sustainable funding for the Whole Home Repairs Program and fund other strategic avenues to set the Commonwealth up for long-term success. Throughout budget season, I’ll be joining my colleagues in the Climate Caucus to advocate for our environment to be a priority in our budget.”

“As a first-term legislator, I am honored to have been elected by my peers to serve as House secretary of the Climate Caucus,” Takac said. “I look forward to engaging with experts in the field and with my colleagues to develop and advocate for sustainable solutions to meet the challenge of a changing climate and environmental justice, particularly in rural areas. Pennsylvania’s culture of innovation and creativity must be leveraged to make our Commonwealth a leader in addressing these global challenges – which are actually felt at a local and community level – in order to ensure that no community is left behind.”

The Legislative Climate Caucus convenes to research, evaluate, discuss, and raise awareness about legislation, appropriations and related matters in ways that affirm evidence-based, peer-reviewed science, the acceptance that climate change is real and human-made, the importance of environmental justice, and the necessity for a renewable energy future. Further, the Climate Caucus operates to uphold the charge of environmental stewardship as laid out in Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Click here to read the letter sent to Governor Shapiro.