On Thursday December 3rd, 2020, I spoke at a public hearing about Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson’s proposed resolution 200666, who wanted to prioritize climate action and environmental justice in the ongoing COVID-19 recovery efforts, whether or not we got funding from the federal government. The recording can be found here, with public testimony starting at 57:50. My testimony follows. 

Hello, My name is Meenal Raval with the Sierra Club, supporting resolution 200666

For years, I’ve spoken on the need to lead on climate. Leading on climate cannot be an afterthought, but the lens thru which Council makes each decision. 

COVID-19 has pushed the pause button for us, and shown us who is affected by the virus, who is the most vulnerable, and who is the most essential amongst us. I’m talking about the young and the old, and the essential workers who cannot work from home, like most of us. COVID-19 has also shown us that the safest spaces are outdoors. COVID-19 is a message from Earth, inviting us back to her garden

For us to venture outdoors though, we need to make our streets safe from police violence. We need to improve our air quality, often deemed unsafe due to pollution from fossil fuels. In addition, we need to stop polluting our green spaces. I’m referring to the Healthy Outdoor Public Spaces bill. 

If we consider carbon pollution for each decision…

we would find ourselves aware of our car-centric culture, and craft policies that encourage walking, cycling and riding transit — as well as policies that encourage electric vehicles, and investment in public charging infrastructure. We would ban vehicle idling in dense neighborhoods, encouraging last mile deliveries with electric tricycles or small electric vans. 

If we consider carbon pollution for each decision…

we would consider banning the sale of new gas appliances in our city, especially for new construction, and work to re-tool the PGW workforce for the needed electrification. 

If we consider carbon pollution for each decision…

newly trained staff would ensure that every street in our city would be tree lined, with each tree cared for. 

These are just some examples. Overall, we need to ensure that we do not approve any new fossil fuel projects, no matter how tempting. They are bad for children and other living beings. No new fossil fuel projects is an international call, and it means no new combined heat and power plants (like the SEPTA gas plant), no new liquified natural gas facilities, no LNG export terminals for plastic manufacturing elsewhere, and… no new gas hookups. 

Our guiding mantra should be… Electrify Everything and Power it All with Clean Energy

This could translate to using tax abatement solely for climate solutions, so that we permit a tax reduction only for net zero energy buildings.

We also need to ensure greater transparency and public input, especially with the orgs that manage PGW — the Philadelphia Gas Commission and the Philadelphia Facilities Management Corp

Each budget decision made by this body must consider air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time we put our money where our mouth is. Or rather… where our lungs are. 

Thank you!