Tuesday, October 31, 2017 | By ShanB | Comments Off on Energy Help for Low-Income Pennsylvanians Still Precarious
With cold weather on the way, programs that help low-income Pennsylvanians keep warm are still in jeopardy in Washington.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for the 2018 fiscal year. But the Trump administration has said the program is no longer necessary, and wants to eliminate it and other energy assistance programs from the budget.
According to Patrick Cicero, director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, so far, Congress is keeping those programs in place.
“I think they still remain politically precarious, to the extent that they’re targeted for future reductions,” Cicero said. “But for this year, the funding for them has been preserved.”
Funding for LIHEAP is included in the Continuing Resolution passed by the House and Senate, which expires on December 8. That sets the framework for negotiating the final 2018 budget.
Also at risk is the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income families cut energy costs. As Cicero pointed out, these programs mean many families won’t be forced to choose between food or medicine and staying warm.
“In the absence of these programs, there would be households who would go without heat and who would become, as a consequence of their loss of utility service, homeless,” he said.
Cicero said some low-income families spend more than 20 percent of their household income on heat and electricity, far above the national average of 2.7 percent.
Pennsylvania is receiving more than $178 million in LIHEAP funding alone. Cicero said energy assistance and energy-efficiency programs do more than help keep people warm.
“They provide local jobs, they provide local support to communities, and they provide assistance to very, economically and otherwise, vulnerable communities,” he said.
Applications for LIHEAP assistance in Pennsylvania can be filed beginning November 1.
Friday, October 27, 2017 | By ShanB | Comments Off on Where Is All That Plastic Trash Going?
The average American throws away an estimated 185 pounds of plastic each year. Scientists say a third of our plastic trash ends up in a fragile ecosystem like the ocean. Check out this video from CBS This Morning tracing the flow of plastic trash:
The Interior Department has proposed raising entrance fees at 17 national parks, from Maine’s Acadia National Park to Utah’s Zion National Park. The changes would increase the cost of a visit by up to 180 percent for a carload of people (from $25-30 at current rates to $70 during peak visitation season).
Friday, October 27, 2017 | By ShanB | Comments Off on PA Strongly Supports Fuel-Efficiency Standards
Overwhelming support for keeping federal fuel-efficiency standards cuts across party lines in Pennsylvania, according to a new poll.
In August, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he’d opened a review of the rules that were put in place to further reduce carbon emissions from new cars and trucks. But according to pollster Elizabeth Sena, a partner with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the poll – commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups – shows almost three in four Pennsylvanians support requiring the auto industry to meet the cleaner standards.
“It’s true across the demographics within the state,” she said, “but I think, most importantly it’s true across partisanship, and it maintains support and has support even among Trump voters.”
Car manufacturers say the standards would increase prices and don’t take into account the growing demand for larger vehicles. However, former EPA administrator Carol Browner pointed out that the manufacturers were involved in the process of setting the standards.
“And they’re important standards,” she said. “You’ll have a cleaner car, you’ll have a more efficient car. It means that families will save money at the pump. When they fill up, a tank of gas will go even further.”
The standard requires cars and light trucks to get an average of 40 miles per gallon by 2025.
Support for higher standards isn’t confined to Pennsylvania. The poll was conducted in five states and Sena said all showed similar results.
“Even among Republicans, we have majority support across all five states,” she said. “It’s 69 percent among Republicans in Michigan; it’s 56 percent among Republicans in Ohio, as an example.”
She said almost half of those who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election also back the increased fuel-efficiency standards.