LAMPa, Partners, Advocate for Creation Care
LAMPa and partner organizations visited legislative leaders this week to advocate for a slate of budgetary proposals regarding creation care and environmental justice.
Advocates urged the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds for clean water by passing Growing Greener III (SB 525 & HB 2020) and the Clean Stream Fund (SB 832 & HB 1901) as well as adequate funding for state agencies, including Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Department of Agriculture (PDA) to be able to fulfill their duties to safeguard the health of Pennsylvanians and to help the commonwealth’s farmers and businesses better steward our natural resources. In particular, LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale urged support for legislation that bolsters the Office of Environmental Justice, sharing the experiences of Lutheran Disaster Response in Pennsylvania, especially in the Eastwick community of Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and in more rural and economically depressed regions of the Commonwealth.
“These communities so often bear the disproportionate cost of decades, if not centuries, of marginalization, environmental exploitation and degradation,” DePasquale said. “They live with the consequences of the things we would rather not acknowledge about our history and present-day practices of extraction and consumption. We need to be sure these communities are seen and their voices are heard and respected.”
Growing Greener III
Growing Greener III would support community-driven work by funding conservation and clean water projects across Pennsylvania. It would bring investments to communities, including clean water to open spaces that provide recreational pursuits for residents and tourists alike. These investments will ultimately support small businesses and jobs, increase tax revenues, and improve the wellbeing of people and communities. Read more about Growing Greener.
The legislation divides the $500 million between three state agencies. In turn, these agencies distribute the funds to communities across the Commonwealth. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) receives 45 percent, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) receives 40 percet, and the Department of Agriculture (PDA) receives 15 percent.
Clean Streams Fund
The Clean Streams Fund would invest $250 million from the American Rescue Plan and create Pennsylvania’s first program dedicated solely to water protection and improvements. This fund is needed to help repair the one-third of Pennsylvania stream miles that are so polluted they are considered “impaired.” This pollution primarily comes from mine drainage, agricultural runoff, and stormwater runoff.
Passage of this fund would bolster existing programs, as well as establish new programs such as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) and the Municipal Stormwater Assistance Program (MSAP). ACAP would receive $125 million (50 percent) and MSAP would receive $25 million (10 percent). This funding will help farmers install practices that improve and modernize their farms, and reduce runoff. Learn more about how the fund would help farmers improve their farms, stay in farming and be good stewards of the land and water.
“If we care about feeding the hungry, we need to care about the farmers who grow our food,” DePasquale said. “Most want to be good stewards of the land and water, just as they see vocation in feeding people. Margins for Pennsylvania’s farms, especially family farms, are thin. We saw how vital regional food systems are during the pandemic. This fund aims to help them preserve those farms that are so important for the resiliency of our food systems, and to be good stewards at the same time.”
Office of Environmental Justice
In the legislative meetings LAMPa advocated for legislation that supports the Office of Environmental Justice (HB 2034/SB 189). The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) works to ensure the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people with the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental policies, regulations, and laws; as well as the identification of environmental issues that impact the most vulnerable communities. Both HB 2034 and SB 189 would codify the Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB), which was established previously by an executive order.
Support for the OEJ is especially important in light of the climate crises that Lutheran Disaster Response is working to address. Eastwick, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, is adjacent to a Superfund site, the Philadelphia International Airport, and Heinz National Refuge. Development decisions riddled with racial prejudice over decades turned a once thriving and racially integrated community into a community that now suffers chronic flooding and chronic underfunding to address these issues. The community leadership is strong and dedicated to making changes, but they are deeply hurt by development injustices in the recent past that continue to impact residents today.
Tropical Storm Isaias caused severe flooding to hundreds of homes in Eastwick in August 2020. Many families are still without repaired heaters and have been unable to repair their homes. Lutheran Disaster Response along with partners from other disaster organizations and in partnership with Eastwick leadership, is working to help identify resources to help families recover; a process that will take years. Read more about Eastwick.
LAMPa is committed to the work of creation care, and will continue to work with partner organizations to pass legislation that addresses the concerns of Pennsylvanians. Our ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice (1993), reminds us that – “It is in hope of God’s promised fulfillment that we hear the call to justice; it is in hope that we take action. When we act interdependently and in solidarity with creation, we do justice. We serve and keep the earth, trusting its bounty can be sufficient for all, and sustainable.” Passing such legislative measures as Growing Greener III, the Clean Streams Fund, and supporting the Office of Environmental Justice, are ways in which our state government can care for creation as well as those most affected by already present impacts of the climate crisis.