DEP Local Climate Action Program Helps Community Leaders Address Climate Change in 139 Municipalities 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched the second year of its Local Climate Action Program (LCAP) this week with 21 participants representing 139 municipalities statewide. From now through June 2021, participants will learn how to measure local greenhouse gas emissions, assess local climate-related vulnerabilities, and develop plans to reduce emissions and manage climate change impacts in their communities.

“DEP is excited to start the second year of the Local Climate Action Program. Through this innovative online program, we’re helping to meet communities’ need for information on emissions and climate change impacts and expertise in planning to reduce those impacts,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Governor Tom Wolf has identified climate change as the most critical environmental threat and in 2019 set a statewide goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The Local Climate Action Program pairs municipalities with college students for assistance in developing the components of their local climate action plans. DEP enlists ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, a national nonprofit that fosters sustainable development, to provide online training and one-on-one technical assistance to the municipal/student teams. This training is funded by a $49,942 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The municipal/student teams will develop greenhouse gas inventories of local building, transportation, agriculture, waste management, and other sectors. They’ll review the strategies and actions recommended in the 2018 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan and incorporate some of them into their local climate action plans. The teams will work to identify local climate-related vulnerabilities, such as extreme rainfall and extreme heat days. They’ll also conduct public meetings and online surveys to engage community members in the planning process.

Drawing on this information, the municipal/student teams will use a template to draft their local climate action plans, detailing strategies, actions, metrics, and timelines.  Plans will include ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions in commercial and residential buildings, energy production, waste management, transportation, agriculture, and other areas.

The teams will then share their plans with community residents and public officials.  To become final, a draft plan must be adopted by the local governing body or mayor.

The 2020-21 LCAP includes the following 21 participants, representing 139 municipalities:

  • In Allegheny County: Ben Avon Borough and CONNECT (Congress of Neighboring Communities)
  • In Beaver County: Cities of Aliquippa and Beaver Falls and Borough of Monaca
  • In Bucks County: Middletown Township
  • In Crawford County: City of Meadville
  • Cumberland County
  • In Dauphin County: City of Harrisburg; Susquehanna Township
  • In Delaware County: Chadds Ford Township; Havertown; Upper Darby Township
  • In Lancaster County: City of Lancaster; Warwick Township
  • In Lehigh County: City of Allentown
  • In Montgomery County: Abington Township; Montgomery County Consortium of Communities
  • In Northampton County: City of Easton
  • In Northumberland County: City of Shamokin
  • In Westmoreland County: City of Monessen

Eighteen participants contain at least one census block group that meets DEP’s criteria for an Environmental Justice (EJ) area. DEP considers a community an EJ area if 20 percent or more individuals live in poverty and/or 30 percent or more population are residents of color as defined by the US Census. LCAP includes training from DEP EJ Director Allison Acevedo on the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, and the importance of actively engaging community residents who are being significantly impacted by climate change.

Pittsburgh is participating in LCAP through CONNECT. “Measuring greenhouse gas emissions at the local level is an important way for local governments to understand the impact that climate-altering pollutants have on our communities, and, just as importantly, helps them create strategies to reduce emissions,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. “I’ve seen firsthand how emissions inventories can help develop community-driven strategies, and it’s great to see DEP, our neighbors in the CONNECT communities, and ICLEI working together.”

Students from Allegheny College, Bucknell University, Dickinson College, Drexel University, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Muhlenberg College, Penn State University, Shippensburg University, Susquehanna University, Temple University, University of Pittsburgh, and Wilkes University will participate in the program.