Environment & Sustainability: City of Philadelphia Action Guide

by Office of the Mayor

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget is at odds with many Philadelphians’ beliefs, and we understand the frustration or anger you might feel. One of the most important things you can do is turn that anger into action: talk to your friends and neighbors, volunteer your time with a local community group, or donate to one of the many organizations that supports our residents.

To help you take action, the City put together guides that include quick facts, ways you can help, and other resources.

Our first action guides were on Immigration and Sanctuary Cities and Obamacare/Affordable Care Act (ACA). Here’s our most recent action guide, on the Environment and Sustainability:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made critical improvements to Philadelphia’s air and water quality. In the past 25 years, unhealthy air days in Philadelphia have declined from a five-year average of almost 100 to fewer than 15, even as standards for healthy air days have become stricter.

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would have immediate and drastic effects on many environmental programs that Philadelphians rely on, including air pollution control, protecting the safety of our drinking water system, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Read the quick facts and action guide and share it with your neighbors. Then call your senators and representatives to make sure they know how you feel.

Quick Facts: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Impact on Philadelphia

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s basic mission is to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land. To do this, the Agency implements the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, provides grants to clean up environmental contamination, runs voluntary programs to encourage conservation of energy and water, and studies the causes and solutions for environmental challenges.
  2. The EPA has been instrumental in improving Philadelphia’s air and water quality. In the past 25 years, unhealthy air days in Philadelphia have declined from a five-year average of almost 100 days to fewer than 15, even as standards have become stricter. This dramatic improvement in outdoor air quality would not have been possible without the EPA.
  3. The EPA has taken an active role in researching climate change, initiating programs to reduce climate emissions, and promoting programs to increase resiliency against the impacts of a warmer climate. Climate projections predict that, by the end of the century, Philadelphia may experience four to 10 times as many days per year above 95 degrees and as many as 16 days a year above 100 degrees. More of these hot days are expected to arrive together as heat waves, increasing the risk that residents will experience heat-related health problems. Philadelphia is also projected to experience a greater frequency of heavy precipitation events, with the largest increase occurring during the winter months. Rising seas will affect water levels in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, increasing the depth and extent of flooding in the city. Read Growing Stronger: Towards a Climate-Ready Philadelphia to learn more about local climate projections.
  4. The EPA has funded important local work around environmental justice to reduce the disproportionate impact of environmental and health hazards on communities of color. The EPA Region III office is based in Philadelphia provides residents with access to federal policymakers and education opportunities, and creates good-paying jobs in our city.

Quick Facts: The Trump Administration’s Proposed EPA Budget

  1. The Trump Administration’s Budget Blueprint proposes to cut the EPA’s budget by 31% ($2.4 billion) and would have immediate and drastic effects on many programs that Philadelphians rely on. The most alarming impact is the elimination of funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—essentially eliminating any federal-level action to work to meet the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.
  2. Clean Air Protection would be drastically impacted by the Trump Administration’s budget: The City’s Air Management Services (AMS) receives EPA grants for air pollution control, permits, enforcement of regulations such as the Clean Air Act, to buy and install monitoring equipment. Cuts to these grants will affect these programs, and will mean AMS will not be able to afford to maintain their 71 current employees who conduct toxics and risk assessments, respond to citizen complaints about noise, vibration, odor, soot or smoke, and manage other air pollution prevention programs.
  3. Clean Water Protection would be drastically impacted by the Trump Administration’s budget: Over decades, EPA has helped fund local water programs, such as those that protect the sources of our drinking water. Additionally, EPA supports innovation, research and education on programs such as Superfund and brownfield remediation, and waterbody restoration and protection. Examples of EPA funding in Philadelphia includes:
    • State Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving funds to address water pollution have supported the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.
    • Five academic partners including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Villanova and Swarthmore, each received $1 million through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results program to support Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters green infrastructure program.
    • The Philadelphia Water Department received an EPA grant to develop a contamination warning system that helps protect the safety of our regional drinking water system.
  4. The ENERGY STAR Program would be drastically impacted by the Trump Administration’s budget: Since its introduction in 1992, the ENERGY STAR label has helped customers identify and prioritize the purchase of more efficient appliances, computers, and other large purchases to save energy and money. The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool is used by thousands of Philadelphia buildings to track their energy and water usage and compare themselves to their peers through the city’s energy benchmarking program.
  5. Brownfield Assessment and Cleanup Grants would be drastically impacted by the Trump Administration’s budget: The EPA’s Brownfields Program provides direct funding for Brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training. These grants have helped Philadelphia put former industrial sites back into productive use and are currently helping to screen soil safety in vacant lots that will be used for urban agriculture and green stormwater infrastructure.
  6. The Trump Administration’s budget also proposes eliminating other essential environmental programs that are housed outside the EPA, including:
    • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Department of Housing and Urban Development): LIHEAP is a critical resource for Philadelphians who are unable to afford heating bills. Approximately $22.5 million in cash grants have supported more than 132,000 low-income Philadelphians, keeping their homes and families warm.
    • Weatherization Assistance Program (Department of Energy): WAP funding assists low-income homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their home, lowering energy bills and reducing uncomfortable and even unsafe living conditions by replacing outdated or non-functioning HVAC systems, leaky doors and windows, and improving ventilation.
    • TIGER Grants (Department of Transportation): TIGER Grants are a competitive source of funding for innovative transportation projects intended to spur economic development. In Philadelphian TIGER funded projects have helped to connect Philadelphia residents with natural spaces, as seen by the creation of the Schuylkill Boardwalk and other trails.
  7. The Trump Administration wants to return many of the responsibilities for environmental protection to individual states. However, all jurisdictions will still need to comply with federal mandates for the health of our air and water. In practice, this potentially will lead to local and state tax increases to balance declining revenue, and it could force communities to reduce spending on local priorities like public education and public safety to meet federal requirements.
  8. The EPA and other federal environmental programs play a critical role in the health of our community, and we owe it to ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and future Philadelphians to get involved to ensure these programs continue to serve all Americans in the years to come.

Quick Facts: What is the Clean Power Plan?

  1. Overwhelming scientific consensus is that the earth’s climate is warming and that human activity – specifically, burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – is the primary cause of that warming.
  2. The single-biggest source of carbon emissions in the United States is power plants burning fossil fuels to create electricity. To address these emissions the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan in 2015. The Plan instructs each state to create a strategy to improve the efficiency of existing fossil fuel-fired power plants so that by 2030 carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32% below 2005 levels.
  3. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, the Clean Power Plan would further benefit Philadelphians and residents and businesses across the United States. Fossil fuel-fired power plants, particularly coal-burning plants, are among the greatest contributors to poor air quality in the United States, and the Plan would curb particulate matter pollution that can lead to asthma and other health hazards. The Plan would also spur job growth in the retrofitting of existing power plants and in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
  4. Pollution reduction from the Clean Power Plan would improve local air quality and helps Philadelphians suffering from asthma better manage their symptoms. Less carbon pollution will also slow climate change and the onset of increasingly frequent flooding, heat waves, and other extreme weather in Philadelphia.
  5. Philadelphia residents and businesses are already reducing local carbon pollution by investing in energy efficiency in their homes and offices and choosing low-carbon transportation options. But limiting the worst harms of climate change will require federal action like the Clean Power Plan.
  6. Learn more about the Clean Power Plan by reviewing this EPA fact sheet.

Quick Facts: How will the Trump Administration treat the Clean Power Plan?

1. Currently the implementation of the Clean Power Plan is on hold until federal courts affirm that it is legal. The United States Court of Appeals granted the Trump Administration a 60-day pause on the litigation on April 28. The Department of Justice is unlikely to further defend the Plan in court, making implementation of the Clean Power Plan less likely.

2. On March 28th, the Trump Administration issued an “Executive Order on Energy Independence,” which calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undergo a formal review of the Clean Power Plan, and further directs state governors that the EPA does not expect states to formulate responses to the Plan while it has been suspended by the Supreme Court.

3. The Order further instructs all federal departments to review policies related to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction, moves toward the suspension of enforcement of rules related to GHG reduction, and rescinds President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

4. The Trump Administration has also proposed significant cuts to the EPA, including all funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.

5. Without the Clean Power Plan, it is unlikely the U.S. can meet its commitments to the Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the scientific consensus for the level above which warming will result in irreversible changes to our climate.

Get Involved: Philly Environment Action Guide

  1. Share these quick facts and action guide with your networks. Education is critical to building bridges and demonstrating support for environmental programs. Whether it is over email, on social media, or at a community meeting, help us get the facts to every Philadelphian.
  2. Take action in your community: The Office of Sustainability has developed one-page guides on how individuals, communities, and large institutions can save energy and take action on climate change. Learn more by visiting www.phila.gov/green to view our Greenworks on the Ground checklists.
  3. Contact the White House (202-456-1111) and let the Trump Administration know that you oppose these cuts to critical environmental programs and support strong federal action to reduce climate emissions.
  4. Contact Senator Toomey (215-241-1090) and Senator Casey (215-405-9660) and let them know you support Congressional action to restore funding to these critical programs and support Congressional action to address climate change.
  5. Contact local legislators. Pennsylvania can continue to develop an implementation strategy for the Clean Power Plan even as it is held in court. Contact your local representative and Governor Wolf (215-560-2640) and let them know the Clean Power Plan should be a priority for Pennsylvania.
  6. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper sharing why you believe these proposed budget cuts would harm Philadelphia or why you believe it is critical for the Clean Power Plan to be fully implemented.
  7. Donate or volunteer for an organization. There are numerous organizations in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania working on environmental issues that can use your support. Here are just a few: