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Local Communities Want Federal Dollars To Fortify Climate Change Infrastructure

Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
State lawmakers and environmental advocates say increased federal funding could help communities deal with the effects of climate change.

State lawmakers and environmental advocates gathered in Millvale Thursday, calling on Congress to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for action on climate change.

Towns throughout Pennsylvania have begun to address the climate crisis by building eco-friendly infrastructure, like solar arrays and microgrids. But according to Brittany Reno, the president of the Sharpsburg Borough Council, it’s difficult for small communities to deal with outdated infrastructure on their own.

“We’re also dealing with the crumbling infrastructure that comes from generations of a country’s deferred maintenance, and also the growing storm of climate change and the ways we already feel it impacting our health and our safety and our economic vitality,” she said.

Reno said federal money could help communities deal with major problems, like extreme weather events, floods, and landslides.

“It is not enough to just do the bare minimum as leaders, to just patch the crumbling infrastructure that should have been fixed two decades ago,” she said. “We must make these investments not just for today or for tomorrow, but for 10, 20, 50 years from now.”

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a$550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill this week. Local lawmakers said some money in the bill could be used for investment in renewable energy and funding to address climate change but that more federal support is needed.

“We need an updated electrical grid powered by more renewable energy to reduce emissions, to be more resilient to extreme weather impacts,” said Katie Blume, the political director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “We need to vastly improve public transit ... to get people to and from jobs that they need, especially coming out of a pandemic.”

Officials must also consider equity and social justice while building up infrastructure, Blume said.

“These hazards have plagued communities — particularly low-income communities and communities of color — for generations, and we need to address it now.”

Officials highlighted ongoing projects in Millvale, Etna and Sharpsburg, such as solar arrays and microgrids, as projects that could benefit from a funding increase.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at