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Climate activists call on Pa. lawmakers to end fossil fuel use

Ice sculptures in front of a group of people.
Rachel McDevitt
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Activists with the Climate Convergence set up ice scuptures of children outside the state capitol on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

On energy issues, Gov. Josh Shapiro has tried to balance support for the traditional energy sector, while holding big polluters accountable and taking care of the environment.

But climate activists gathered at the state capitol Monday to urge the governor and lawmakers to do more.

Organizers of the Climate Convergence set up melting ice sculptures of children outside the capitol building.

The work by Jared McAlister of the DiMartino Ice Company in Jeanette is titled “We Can’t Wait,” which was a major theme in the testimony of participants in the “people’s hearing on climate change” inside the capitol.

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Several dozen people from across the state called for the governor and lawmakers to end fossil fuel use and ensure clean air and water.

Ten-year-old Lily Allman from Pittsburgh said she loves to spend time outside, but her asthma makes that difficult.

“At my school we don’t have air conditioning, so when it’s hot we have to open our windows. The downside is on air quality alert days, we have to choose between being too hot and being able to breathe,” Allman said.

Karen Lyons, with Pittsburgh-based 412 Justice said black and brown communities are particularly affected by pollution. Her 5-year-old grandson has asthma and can’t go outside some days.

“Is that the way we want our children to live?” Lyons said. “Oh, that’s right– it’s not for everybody. It’s only in certain communities that this seems to impact us the most.”

The General Assembly has yet to pass significant legislation on climate change this session.

Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producer in the country. Republican lawmakers have generally supported the industry and tried to protect it from regulation and other measures they consider harmful to business, such as a severance tax. Democrats that represent areas with a lot of jobs in the energy sector have also been wary of measures that could put those jobs at risk.

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the U.S., according to 2021 data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.