Over the past half century, Republicans in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. have led some of the most successful environmental initiatives in our nation’s history. From the landmark enactment of the Clean Air Act in the 1970s to creation of the historic Growing Greener program in 1999 to the standards enacted in 2012 for the natural gas industry, conservative policymakers have done a remarkable job of identifying environmental needs and working toward effective solutions.

These programs clearly made a difference throughout Pennsylvania. Since 2004, DEP has recorded more than 900 miles of restored streams and 28,000 acres of restored lakes. Emissions fell by more than 90 percent through 2019, even as energy production soared.

Best of all, these successes proved conclusively that we can protect the environment without chasing jobs and opportunities out of Pennsylvania. 

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This tradition continued last year with the establishment of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Fund, a plan I championed with my colleagues Senator Gene Yaw and Senator Dan Laughlin to clean up rivers and streams. 

The fund will support a new statewide Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program that will partner with counties to remediate the affected waterways. It will also launch a “Pay for Success” pilot program that rewards entrepreneurs for discovering new and cost-effective ways to reduce pollution.

Additional funding was also included in the budget for water and sewer upgrades that will address point source pollution and boost water quality throughout the Commonwealth. 

These critical investments will not only improve water quality for all Pennsylvanians, but also play a strong role in meeting the federal government’s pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Although Republicans spearheaded these key environmental protection measures, it is noteworthy they were also supported strongly by Democrats as well. This reinforces a simple, basic truth: we achieve our best results when all parties set aside partisanship and work together for the good of the people we represent.

This nonpartisan approach mirrors the practice of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a multi-state agency which has made tremendous progress in restoring waterways throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. There are no political agendas or one-sided talking points for this panel. We remain laser-focused on working together with an incredibly diverse group of stakeholders to achieve meaningful results.

While we have seen the clear benefits of bipartisanship, we have also dealt with the consequences of environmental policy rooted purely in politics.  

We can have a healthy environment and a thriving energy industry — but only if we set aside pie-in-the-sky policies and focus on legitimate, common-sense solutions…

For example, the Wolf Administration has pushed for years to unilaterally enact a carbon tax that will raise energy bills, place new burdens on employers, and close power plants throughout the state. Worse yet, this misguided policy abdicates our ability to make decisions on energy and the environment to leaders in other states who could not possibly care less about Pennsylvania’s economy, grid reliability, and energy independence.

Rather than trying to negotiate Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with the legislature — like every other RGGI state has done — Wolf tried to bypass the legislature and implement these tax burdens through the regulatory process without the input or consent of the General Assembly. This sparked a bitter legal and political battle that continues to this day.

This calamity should serve as a cautionary tale for policymakers today and in the future. 

Thankfully, we are no longer shackled to the mistakes of the outgoing governor. Newly minted Governor Josh Shapiro has expressed his own reservations about RGGI and pledged to take a fresh look at more viable alternatives. This already represents a step forward from where we were. 

We now have an opportunity to turn the page on the failures of the Wolf Administration and forge a new path forward to protect our environment without sacrificing our economic prosperity. We can have a healthy environment and a thriving energy industry — but only if we set aside pie-in-the-sky policies and focus on legitimate, common-sense solutions that will achieve our shared goals without subjecting our people to terrible consequences.

Senator Scott Martin represents the 13th Senatorial District, located in southern Lancaster and southern Berks counties. He chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and was recently elected to Chair the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Commission for 2023.

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