Larry Schweiger just couldn’t sit on his back porch in the North Hills watching his grandchildren and not do something about their future.
It was “just too much,” Schweiger said. The Pittsburgh native needed to be involved “in the enormous struggle ahead to move away from carbon pollution and move to a clean, safe environment,” he said.
Just 14 months after retiring as president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, Schweiger accepted the same title with PennFuture, a statewide environmental advocacy organization.
Schweiger succeeds Cindy Adams Dunn, who was appointed in January to serve as secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Prior to his stint at the National Wildlife Federation, Schweiger served as president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
David Lane, chair of PennFuture’s board of directors, said Schweiger joins the organization at a “critical juncture” for energy and the environment in the state.
“He is an environmental and climate champion for our times," he said, "ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead."
Schweiger said he sees it as an opportunity to return to the front line.
“Particularly now with (the) EPA on the verge of promulgating rules that will kick carbon responsibilities back to the states," he said. "It’s an opportunity to work at the state level; it’s an opportunity for the states to step up and deal with our own problems and begin a new course.”
The EPA has proposed cutting carbon pollution 30 percent nationwide by 2030. By next June, each state must submit a plan of compliance to reach EPA goals.
“We can either be a victim of the changes that are coming, or we can be a catalyst for change,” Schweiger said.
To encourage a reduction in pollution, he supports a $40 fee on every ton of carbon that companies emit “to compensate for damages you're causing to the rest of the world,” he said.
“When a pot is boiling over on your stove, I don’t know anyone who would turn that stove up. Yet, that’s what we’re doing every day with the amount of pollution we’re putting in the sky,” Schweiger said.
He said the surcharge on carbon pollution would help create a level playing field for clean energy producers.
His goals for PennFuture include reducing carbon pollution, cleaning streams and rivers and solving threats to Lake Erie.
“We need a new environmental vision for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; it needs to come fast, and it needs to be a driver behind our economic development.”
An extended interview with Larry Schweiger can be heard on The Allegheny Front on 90.5 WESA at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.