Congresswoman Summer Lee, Local Officials, and Public Health Advocates Celebrate New Federal Investments in Air Quality Monitoring 

Leaders Highlight How Pennsylvania Can Further Benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act

(PITTSBURGH, PA) – Today, Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12), state Representative Sara Innamorato (HD-21), and Pittsburgh City Councilmember Erika Strassburger (District 8) joined environmental leaders and public health advocates for a press conference. Speakers celebrated new investments in community-level air quality monitoring that will help protect residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania from harmful pollution. 

Congresswoman Lee said, “Growing up in the Mon Valley with some of the worst air quality in the nation, I came to environmental justice through necessity. Pennsylvania families and businesses need to know how our health, our lives, and our pocketbooks will benefit from the massive investments under the Inflation Reduction Act. They need to know that same investments that will clean our air will create thousands of good paying union jobs, lower energy bills for Pennsylvania families by more than $340 per year, save the average new homeowner and Pennsylvania 13.5% on their annual energy bills, and cover more than 80% of the cost of home energy efficiency measures for low and moderate income families.Now, we need to keep the pressure up – to make sure these funds are dolled out equitably and intentionally to right the wrongs of environmental racism and pass more big bold bills to hold polluters accountable. Our communities deserve leaders who’ve lived the impacts of pollution who will fight back as hard as these organizers are fighting at home.”

Under Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Pennsylvanians won big. Southwestern PA groups have already been awarded nearly $2 million to monitor levels of harmful air pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing an additional $236 million in IRA funds nationwide for air monitoring, including grants for monitoring near industrial facilities, multipollutant monitoring, and air quality sensors in disadvantaged communities. 

You can watch her full remarks here. Additional photos available upon request. 

Full remarks below: 

“If you know me, and you know my story, then you know that I grew up in the Mon Valley. So, I came to environmental justice, advocacy, not through education or through expertise, but truly through necessity.

Mine was a community, that has suffered from some of the worst air quality in the nation. As you all know, in Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania, and specifically the Mon Valley– where I grew up, we suffer from some of the highest rates of asthma, particularly childhood asthma, cancer, and respiratory illness. What some of us call environmental racism, where we see black and brown and marginalized communities, poor communities that are typically closer to the environmental hazards and the wrong. But what we know is is that our communities, Western Pennsylvania and the Mon Valley, are not alone. 

Ours is a story that is interwoven with communities all over this country and indeed the global south of this world, where we see corporate  polluters who sacrifice the health and the well being of our neighbors and our community members often for their own financial gain, for their own profit and benefit, for their selfishness that they put over our safety; and for CEOs, million dollar bonuses over millions of people’s lives. 

Because of years of lobbying by big oil and gas, we face a climate crisis – fueled by pollution – that’s making extreme weather events more frequent and severe with our communities paying the price.

But, thanks to the years and years of tireless work and advocacy from you all, these people here, our leading advocates (and even now our youth), our activists community organizers, the movement leaders, they have the mandate that their government work towards climate action before it’s too late – President Biden signed into law the biggest investment in climate and environmental justice in history.

So let’s start by talking about the Inflation Reduction Act’s Clean Air Provisions and what they’ll mean for Western Pennsylvania, some of which we’ve already had a glimpse of. $3 billion will be invested to reduce air pollution, including $750 million benefiting communities like those and the 19 Pennsylvania counties that don’t meet national air quality standards. The legislation also includes $3 billion and environmental justice block grants, another $3 billion for projects that reduce pollution and improve access to safe and affordable transportation. And that’s just scratching the surface. 

But our work is not done. You sent me to Congress to fight for investments in our economic future for all of us in Western Pennsylvania. And as a member of the Science, Space and Technology committee, I will be working to bring home funding for clean energy innovation, for your research dollars back to our institutions, break down barriers to Black, brown and other marginalized communities and STEM, and fuel clean energy manufacturing. I want to make it clear, the Inflation Reduction Act’s investments to fight pollution in PA will not only help improve air quality and preserve a livable future for all of our children; it will lower energy costs for working families, protect us from the impacts of climate disaster, help Pittsburgh become the leader in clean energy innovation, and create 1000s of good union jobs.

The same investments that will clean our air will lower energy bills for Pennsylvania families by more than $340 per year. New grants that help state and local governments adopt new building energy codes will save the average new homeowner and Pennsylvania 13.5% on their annual energy bills, rebates to cover more than 80% of the cost of home energy efficiency measures for low and moderate income families.

Now that this law has been passed, we’re laser focused on fighting to make sure Western Pennsylvania receives as much as that funding for grants projects. And programs as possible because our health, our economy and our pocketbooks depend on it.

That means we’ve all got to get the word out about it. Pennsylvania families and businesses need to know how they can benefit from these investments that will improve our air quality, lower energy bills, spur Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy, mitigate extreme weather events, and boost Pittsburgh’s climate resiliency.

And we need to keep the pressure up – to make sure these funds are dolled out equitably and intentionally to right the wrongs of environmental racism. And to pass more big, bold bills to hold polluters accountable, combat the climate crisis, clean up our air and drinking water, and create good paying union jobs. 

Our communities deserve leaders who will fight back as hard as these organizers are fighting at home. These very leaders who live the impacts of climate catastrophe and pollution every single day. 

So I want to remind my colleagues back in Washington: if your policies don’t include environmental justice and address environmental racism, then you’re not a progressive and you’re not working in the right direction. So, if you’re meeting with lobbyists more than young activists whose future depends on bold action, you’re not leading. If you’re for tax breaks for big oil, you’re not for PA families paying for it in their energy bills every month.

EVERY person deserves clean air and a livable future and if you’re in that fight, then you need to get out of the way. 

We have more work to do, but I’m proud and I’m honored to be here in joining so many fierce advocates as we create that livable future for all of us. So thank you all so much for coming today. And thanks so much for the advocacy that led us here today.”

How Western PA will benefit from The Inflation Reduction Act

  • The Inflation Reduction Act will deliver a clean, secure, and healthy future for Pennsylvania’s children and grandchildren. The investments provided by this legislation will help reduce air pollution in Pittsburgh and communities across Pennsylvania. They will also spur job creation in the clean energy sector and yield energy savings for families.
  • Southwestern PA groups have already received more than $2 million to monitor levels of harmful air pollution. The EPA is issuing an additional $236 million in IRA funds nationwide for air monitoring, including grants for monitoring near industrial facilities, multipollutant monitoring, and air quality sensors in disadvantaged communities. 
  • The Inflation Reduction Act invests $3 billion to reduce air pollution at ports, including $750 millionbenefiting communities like those in the 19 Pennsylvania counties that don’t meet national air quality standards. 
  • The legislation also includes $3 billion in environmental justice block grants and another $3 billion for projects that reduce pollution and improve access to safe and affordable transportation.
  • It also includes $1 billion for clean heavy-duty trucks, including school buses and transit buses of which$400 million is reserved forcommunities that don’t meet national air quality standards.
  • The Inflation Reduction Act will significantly reduce harmful pollution, resulting in up to 100,000 fewer asthma attacks in the U.S. in 2030. 
  • Lowering this pollution will not only help Pittsburgh avoid costly climate impacts from extreme weather, but it’ll also help improve air quality. 

Investing in a Clean Economy and Creating Jobs: 

  • The Inflation Reduction Act will bring an estimated $270 millionof investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to Pennsylvania by 2030. 
  • A 2020 report found that federal clean energy stimulus investments similar to those considered in the Inflation Reduction Act would add almost126,000 clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania over five years. 

Lowering Energy Costs for Pennsylvania Families: 

  • The Inflation Reduction Act will help Pennsylvania families switch to cheaper, cleaner electricity by providing $9 billionin consumer home energy rebate programs and 10 years of consumer tax credits.
  • These provisions could lower energy bills for Pennsylvania families by more than $341 per year
  • In addition, the bill includes new grants to help state and local governments adopt new building energy codes, which will save the average new homeowner in Pennsylvania 13.5% on their annual energy bill. All Pennsylvanians, even those who do not make the switch to clean energy, could see lower home energy prices. 
  • The Inflation Reduction Act lowers costs for families by:
    • Making it cheaper for families to convert their homes from fossil fuel-based to electricity-based heating and cooling to slash air and climate pollution with
      • 10 years ofconsumer tax credits to make homes energy efficient and run on clean energy, making heat pumps, rooftop solar, and electric HVAC, and water heaters more affordable.
      • An alternative rebate option that covers more than 80 percent of the cost of whole-home energy efficiency measures for low- and moderate-income households, and covers more than 50 percent for wealthier households. 
      • Rebates and grants to support energy efficiency upgrades and improvements in multifamily homes and affordable housing.
  •  

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