Getting to Green?: Pennsylvania's Commitment to Renewable Energy

Thursday, March 29, 2007RushPoster07
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room

Mike Ewall, director, ActionPA
Tom Tuffey, director, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s
Future Center for Energy, Enterprise and the Environment
Michael Heiman, facilitator, geographer and professor of environmental studies, Dickinson College

A discussion of Pennsylvania’s electricity provision, reform and contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Panelists will discuss the alternatives state laws allow, and the advances that have been made in wind and solar energy. An open discussion will follow.

Issue in Context
As both a major industrial state and a large producer of coal, Pennsylvania leaves a significant environmental footprint. Ranked third highest in the nation for production of greenhouse gasses (behind California and Texas), Pennsylvania contributes 1 PERCENT of all human-generated global carbon dioxide. Yet recently, this hotbed of energy generation and use has also given a lot of attention to alternative energy sources and environmental protection.
Although most agree that renewable energy sources are necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign sources and the carbon footprint accompanying fossil fuels, funding and support for alternative energy sources, some of which are less than “renewable,” is controversial in the Pennsylvania legislature and across the country. In Pennsylvania, the “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard” bill was signed into state law on November 20, 2004. Known as Act 213, this law generally requires that electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers use alternative energy resources for a specific percentage of the electricity they provide to Pennsylvania customers. The percentage of alternative energy required gradually increases according to a fifteen year schedule found in Act 213. This law divides energy resources into two categories, Tier I and Tier II. Tier I is predominantly the more familiar low-carbon renewable resources, including wind power and solar voltaic energy, while Tier II includes more environmentally controversial sources, such as plants that burn low-grade waste coal piles currently polluting the environment, methane derived from coal seams, and trash incinerators. Despite ordering one of the highest levels of renewable energy in the nation, Act 213 remains contested by the environmental community for its use of fossil fuel sources, waste coal and coal mine methane, and is further criticized for not placing high enough requirements on the percentage of renewable Tier I energy used.

About the Speakers
Mike Ewall has been involved in grassroots environmental justice organizing since 1991. As the founder of ActionPA and the Energy Justice Network, he has worked in Pennsylvania and around the world to help grassroots community groups tackle polluting energy and waste industries. His experiences range from fighting for environmental justice in rural and suburban communities in Pennsylvania to helping protest environmental racism in the state’s urban centers. Since Pennsylvania deregulated its electric industry in 1999, Mr. Ewall has been focused on energy marketing issues. That year, he launched a boycott of Green Mountain Energy in order to call attention to their marketing of dirty and deceptive energy products. He is also the author of the nation’s strongest and cleanest Renewable Portfolio Standard legislation, introduced in Pennsylvania’s state senate in 2003.

Tom Tuffey works for Citizen’s for Pennsylvania’s Future (Penn Future) as the director of the Center for Energy, Enterprise and the Environment. He has previously served as the executive director of the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern Pennsylvania and as an executive committee member of the Clean Energy States Alliance, the trade association of the 17 state clean energy funds. Dr. Tuffey has also taught at Rutgers University in both the Water Resources Research Institute and the Bureau of Engineering Research. Dr. Tuffey received his doctoral degree in environmental sciences from Rutgers University.

Michael Heiman is a professor of environmental studies and geography in the Dickinson College department of environmental studies. He received his doctoral degree in geography from the University of California at Berkeley and has used his training in both the natural and social sciences to research solid, hazardous, and nuclear waste management; sustainable development, dispute resolution, and environmental racism and justice. Last spring he gave a presentation at the Meeting of the Association of American Geographers entitled “Green Power: Will Consumer Choice Make The Difference?”

Related Readings
Text of Act 213
ActionPA’s information on Act 213
Energy Justice Network’s information on Waste Coal
PennFuture’s Campaign to global warming gas emissions in PA