“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
This comes straight from Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
While these protections seem self-evident, listing them explicitly sets the necessary framework for the Commonwealth to simultaneously protect citizens and the environment while supporting Pennsylvania’s businesses to thrive, compete, and be a force for good.
SBN, in collaboration with PennFuture, convened its membership (local, independent businesses) and State Representatives Chris Rabb, Donna Bullock, Brian Sims, and Leanne Krueger-Braneky to discuss legislation (H.B. 2132/S.B. 1140) that sets out to transition Pennsylvania to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
These bills, which have bipartisan support, propose the creation of a Clean Energy Transition Task Force, a Clean Energy Center of Excellence, and a Council for Clean Energy Workforce Development to develop the plan forward for the commonwealth.
This meeting was part of SBN’s Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable program–an intentionally intimate monthly members-only issue-based breakfast conversation created to connect local independent businesses, elected officials and other key decision makers in the city, region, and state.
SBN brings together business owners and decision makers to provide the triple bottom line business (people, planet, and profit) perspective and elevate the business voice in the region’s growing impact economy. Knowing that local business is the backbone of a vibrant economy, policymakers look to SBN to know where the local business community stands on issues.
The State Representatives affirmed the power of small business owners and encouraged attendees to communicate why being pro-environment and pro-business are not mutually exclusive.
Representative Sims underscored the fact that the growth of jobs in the clean energy sector demonstrates how environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand.
According to a 2017 report from Environmental Entrepreneurs’, “The clean energy job sector in Pennsylvania grew 15 percent over the past two years, with over 66,000 workers now employed in energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs- twice as many as fossil fuel jobs. More than 8,800 of those jobs are in renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.” (Clean Jobs Pennsylvania).
Further, the Environmental Defense Fund, in a 2017 study, reported, “Solar employment opportunities are currently growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy, with an average annual growth rate of 6% since 2012. Over the past 5 years, annual growth rates in oil and gas extraction, coal mining and processing jobs have ranged from 9% to -22%, and jobs in these sectors have seen an overall decline,” (Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs).
Sims shared that what is key and will continue to be key is showing models of success within the business community. This is SBN. This is what is important for demonstrating to other businesses and stakeholders that are less environmentally inclined that it is do-able and beneficial.
Businesses can provide the language for legislators to use to engage businesses and stakeholders that may be less progressive on issues such as clean energy. This makes the tone of the conversation less demonizing, putting it in terms that can be more familiar to traditional business perspectives, and therefore open a more productive dialogue.
State Representative Bullock said that meeting with business owners like this gives representatives the language to speak with other business owners who are not as like-minded regarding the clean energy conversation.
She also shared that her deep care for this issue started at home—learning about high levels of lead in her son’s blood convicted her to more closely see the link between public health and the environment.
State Representative Rabb, a co-sponsor of the bill, also related this legislation to family:
“I’d like Pennsylvania to get a jump on the jobs of the future, a jump on a cleaner, sustainable future,” said Rabb. “As the father of two sons, I want them to have a better future, and I want them to have that opportunity here. Pennsylvania has an opportunity here to be a leader, not a follower. Let’s take that opportunity and get this done — together!”
To learn more about this bill, click here.
To sign up for the next Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable, click here.