Rep. Keller stands up for life in ‘reproductive rights’ hearing

November 18, 2019
In The News

WILKES-BARRE — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale last week said Pennsylvania must proactively plan for the changing climate — a problem that already threatens public safety and drives significant new costs for taxpayers.

“The longer we fail to act, the greater the risks to our environment, our economy and our future,” DePasquale said. “Climate change is a challenge that also presents an opportunity: by acting and investing now, we can not only save lives but also protect our economy and create jobs along the way.”

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program — made up of 13 federal agencies — Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization.

A major report issued by the program late last year details threats to public health and safety from extreme heat and flooding; concerns about severe weather impacts on aging power, water, sewer and transportation systems; and the impact of altered ecosystems on rural communities, farming, forestry and tourism.

DePasquale released a special report, “Climate Crisis: The Rising Cost of Inaction,” which noted that severe weather is already costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year and that state government needs to do more to mitigate future impacts.

“My team and I documented at least $261 million in climate-related costs to Pennsylvania in 2018 alone in this report,” DePasquale said. “Half of that amount — $125.7 million — was in infrastructure damage statewide caused by record-breaking floods and landslides.”

Other projected costs of climate change include:

• Millions of dollars to equip public school buildings with air conditioning because of increased heat waves.

• Changes in growing zones and seasons, plus increasing numbers and varieties of pests, that will impact food availability and costs.

• A rise in sea levels that will impact major shipping and transportation hubs, including Philadelphia International Airport.

Observation 1: Local and state leaders are struggling to plan for extreme weather and other climate change impacts due to a lack of coordination and inadequate resources.

“Though some plans exist at the state, county and municipal levels, there needs to be more leadership and coordination at the state level,” DePasquale said. “As a state, we can and must do better.”

The report notes that communities are flooding that had not flooded before, but the state is not prioritizing action or funding to mitigate the risks to people and property. One example of this problem is a lack of dedicated funding to upgrade or replace dangerously outdated municipal sewer systems.

“Pennsylvania’s sewer systems are among the oldest in the nation,” DePasquale said. “Not only are those systems ill-suited to handle heavier rainfalls that cause increased flooding, some also release untreated sewage into the same rivers that supply drinking water to millions of people.”

Observation 2: Pennsylvania is not prepared for the severe impacts of climate change, and taking a solely reactive approach will lead to millions of dollars spent on recovery and remediation.

The report notes that, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every $1 spent on natural disaster mitigation saves $6 in recovery costs. However, because many people incorrectly believe that federal disaster assistance is always available, too little attention is paid to making proactive investments in mitigation.

“The federal government cannot, and will not, bail us out after every severe storm,” DePasquale said. “In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to cover $63 million in damage to public infrastructure across Pennsylvania last year.”

Pennsylvania’s homes and businesses are under-insured against flooding that will continue to increase in frequency and severity. Only 15% of property owners who should purchase flood insurance actually obtain it, and that share is decreasing.

Observation 3: Pennsylvania must join other states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide and methane, in the electricity, transportation, industrial and agricultural sectors.

“Nearly 90% of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gases — which drive climate change — come from those four sectors,” DePasquale said. “Yet, there is virtually no coordinated effort to reduce emissions in three of the sectors: transportation, industry and agriculture.”

DePasquale noted that aside from a decrease in emissions from the electric power sector that resulted from transitioning electric generation largely from coal to natural gas, no real other reductions have been made.

“Because of Pennsylvania’s major role in energy production, we have a responsibility to be a leader among states — not a follower,” DePasquale said. “As a state, we are the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and we have very few plans to help us improve that ranking.”

Rep. Keller stands up for life in ‘reproductive rights’ hearing

During last week’s Democrat-crafted House Oversight and Reform hearing on “Examining State Efforts to Undermine Access to Reproductive Healthcare,” U.S. Rep. Fred Keller stood up for life by sharing a personal story about how medical diagnoses are not always predictive of outcomes.

The story involves his now-adult son, Freddie, who suffered a devastating head injury in an accident that occurred when he was 3 years old. Despite their best efforts, doctors told Keller and his wife that Freddie would not live. Even once he started to recover, doctors believed he would not be able to live a full and meaningful life as a result of his accident.

“I am happy to say that today Freddie has fully recovered, said Keller, R-Middleburg. “He is a college graduate and now works for the very hospital that saved his life. Freddie’s outcome was different than the doctors said it would be. His accident is now just a memory, but also an opportunity to learn about the value of human life.”

As it pertains to reproductive rights, Keller said sometimes doctors diagnose pre-born children with medical problems, but do not always know the outcome or get it right. These diagnoses are then used to plan abortions.

“In this country, we have countless situations where people determine the value of an unborn human life. Abortions are sometimes planned and executed based upon diagnoses that have uncertain outcomes,” Keller added. “Sometimes, as a result, babies are born alive and then killed as part of a planned abortion procedure. This should not only shock the conscience but should make the American people sick.”

Statewide initiative will reduce littering

The Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Transportation (PennDOT), in partnership with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, last week announced an initiative to reduce littering and presented results of the first statewide litter study in over 20 years at a meeting attended by more than 125 local government, legislative, business, and community organization partners.

“Pennsylvania has a littering problem. Trash lines many of our roads and neighborhood streets. Hillsides and stream-banks are strewn with tires and other garbage illegally dumped,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This presents health hazards, it contaminates the soil and water, and cleaning it up is costly to the Commonwealth and taxpayers.

The Pennsylvania Litter Research Study was conducted in 2018-2019 with funding from DEP, PennDOT, Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. A phone survey collected 500 residents’ views on litter and littering. Field teams performed on-the-ground litter counts in 180 locations statewide, including state and local roads and urban and rural areas.

Over 96% of survey respondents said littering is a problem in Pennsylvania. Field results indicate an estimated 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania roads. The most common items are cigarette butts and plastics, such as plastic food packaging, bottles, and bags. Motorists and pedestrians are leading litterers, followed by improperly secured truck loads.

DEP, PennDOT, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will release a report presenting conclusions and complete data from the study and open discussion early in the new year. At that time the agencies will use the data to begin the task of strategizing a framework of measures to reduce specific littering behaviors.