Local legislators join fight to bring clean energy solutions

Daily Local News, 7/26/18

State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, right, Mayor Dianne Herrin, and West Chester University Director of Sustainability, Bradley Flamm, take questions at a clean energy forum promoting clean energy solutions Wednesday night.

West Chester >> On Wednesday night, PennEnvironment was joined by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, Mayor Dianne Herrin, and West Chester University Director of Sustainability, Bradley Flamm, to hold a clean energy forum promoting clean energy solutions and calling on Pennsylvania to transition to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible.

Almost 90 Chester County residents joined the panelists Wednesday night at Mitchell Hall at West Chester University, filling the room to the point of standing room only. Event attendees submitted questions for the panelists, and an engaging discussion ensued about how residents can work together to push for clean energy and ensure a healthy, livable climate for all.

With record heat waves and torrential downpours hitting the state and wildfires burning across the West Coast, the need for clean energy solutions and moving off of fossil fuels to solve climate change could not be any clearer.

“As Pennsylvanians, we have a constitutionally-protected right to ‘clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.’ We must continue to assert ourselves in defending and supporting those rights,” said Dinniman.

The state-elected officials in attendance both cosponsored legislation in the General Assembly that would require Pennsylvania to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. This legislation is HB2132 in the state House and SB1140 in the state Senate. Continue reading

“Families Belong Together” rally, West Chester, June 30

Our elected representatives were there in force, all speaking eloquently to the crowd of about 600. Some highlights:

West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin:

“We are here because we are facing a crisis that transcends politics.”

“We will not be accomplices to this cruelty that is before us.”

“We are going to insure Liberty and justice until we win.”

156th district representative in Harrisburg Carolyn Comitta serves on the Governor’s Commission on Women, which together with the Commission on Latino Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs, and African American Affairs has issued a joint statement denouncing the separation of families and the use of children as “political pawns.”

See the text at “Governor’s Advisory Commissions Urge Reunification of Immigrant Families,” 6/26/18.

State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) noted that he has spoken many times on the court House steps, but never thought he’d be there protesting the separation of families by the US government.

His remarks received sustained applause, including “It’s cruel, it’s immoral, it’s wrong, and we’ll make sure that it stops” and “We are here today to reclaim the soul of America.”

See the full video of the rally, courtesy of Chester County Community TV Live, here. And don’t miss WCDem singer par excellence Stephanie Phillips, in the video at 7:50.

Senator Dinniman (D-19) at rally against Mariner East pipeline

Over 200 people attended the Rally for Community Safety – Mariner East, hosted by Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety and Food & Water Watch – Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 9 at the Historic Chester County Courthouse steps.

Speakers received vocal support from the crowd. The citizens have never gotten answers, said Senator Dinniman, who in April filed a formal legal complaint against the the Public Utility Commission over its inadequate attention to safety and siting. The Mariner East case is as important as the Valdez oil spill in Alaska or the Love Canal in New York state, Dinniman said, and Pennsylvania government should be standing up for the PA constitution and private property rights. As he and other speakers emphasized:

Article I, Section 27

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

photo thanks to Dianne Herrin

Thank Sen. Dinniman for voting against SB3

What: support Andy Dinniman’s No vote on SB3
When: Friday Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.
Where: 1 N. Church St., West Chester

This week the PA Senate passed Senate Bill 3, an incredibly restrictive abortion ban that would outlaw a commonly used safe procedure as well as all abortions after 20 weeks, which is often too early for pregnant women to find out about tragic fetal abnormalities.

PA Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) voted against SB3; show him your appreciation and thank him for standing up for women’s rights.

Come to a supportive rally outside Senator Dinniman’s local office at 1 N. Church St., West Chester (NE corner of Market and Church Sts.). Bring an appropriate sign if you wish.

We need to show there’s massive support for abortion rights and encourage supportive senators to sustain the upcoming gubernatorial veto override.

Dinniman Awarded West Chester University’s President’s Medal for Service

Sen. Dinniman’s site (D-19), December 18, 2015

WEST CHESTER (December 18) – State Senator Andy Dinniman was awarded West Chester University’s President’s Medal for Service for his leadership and service to the university, its students, and educators.

The award is presented to “a distinguished educator and public servant [who] exemplifies a commitment to the mission and values of this University and a spirit of service that has greatly enriched the lives of students, educators and the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Senator Dinniman receives the President’s Medal for Service from West Chester University President Greg R. Weisenstein during recent commencement ceremonies.

Dinniman, who has served on the faculty of West Chester University for many years, said he was honored and humbled by the recognition, which was formally presented by West Chester University President Greg R. Weisenstein during recent commencement ceremonies….

read more at Sen. Dinniman’s site

Saving the Barclay Grounds c/o Andy Dinniman

Senator Dinniman is holding a Town Hall meeting Friday Sept. 6 @ NOON at his office, One North Church Street, West Chester, PA 19380, specifically concerning the future of the Barclay Grounds. Please attend if possible, and please pass this along to your friends and neighbors ASAP as this is super short notice.

The more constituents that attend, the stronger our position will be.

More info from Senator Dinniman’s office: 610.692.2112. More info from Barclay neighbors and others trying to preserve this resource: http://www.savethebarclaygrounds.org/.

Saving the Barclay – a West Chester Tradition
Senator to Hold Friday Meeting to Explore Solutions

By Andy Dinniman

Guest Columnist

Saving the Barclay Grounds is worth every bit of energy and determination we can muster.

The Barclay Grounds is not only on the National Register of Historic Places, the property embodies West Chester’s soul, its essence of open spaces and historic places.

The Barclay Grounds has been threatened four times since the late 1960’s, but each time borough residents and friends have stood up to its destruction. Once, a resident even stood in front of a bulldozer and reportedly said, “Over my dead body.”

Thanks to their actions, the Barclay Grounds and its magnificent collection of 100-foot specimen trees remain standing, just as they have for more than 150 years.

Now it is our turn to protect this property. I understand there are no easy solutions and that the West Chester Borough Council has legal parameters to follow in the land-development process, and that the deadline for final development approval is a short three weeks away. That is why I am hosting a public brainstorming session on Friday (Sept. 6) from noon to 1 p.m. at my office at One North Church Street.

Some initial thoughts that I want to explore:

· Can Borough Council ask to delay its decision even if it may not be able to ultimately block the development? A delay provides more time to find alternatives.

· Can the developers voluntarily delay their plans in response to the concerns of borough residents? Remember that the developers expressed a desire to swap the Barclay Grounds for Parking Lot #10 on Chestnut Street.

· If such an exchange took place, are there other excellent locations for the farmers market? While everyone loves the market and an excellent location needs to be maintained, is there another great location such as Borough Parking Lot #7 one block to the west?

· If such an exchange took place, are there ways the borough can make up its lost parking revenue? For example, could Chester County support this open-space initiative not through a grant but by letting the borough charge a fee for the use of the Justice Center Parking Garage on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights?

These are questions that can only be answered by borough officials and the developers involved. I represent the 28 municipalities that make up the 19th Senatorial District, but I don’t vote on what happens within any of them, including the Borough of West Chester.

What I can do is bring everyone together and try to save the Barclay Grounds before the clock runs out. Please join me on Friday at noon in my district office so we can continue this conversation and help save a part of West Chester that means so much to so many.

Some issues with primary election articles

Letter, Daily Local News, 5/17/13

The article “Board hopefuls represent competing camps in primary,” printed in the May 13 Daily Local News, deals with a vital race in the May 21 primary but has some issues, as they say.

The print article says that the “Better Directions” slate of Ricky Swalm, Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, and Chris McCune “were endorsed by the Democratic committee, though they are all registered Republicans.”

There were two errors there: the Democratic committee does not “endorse” Republicans (and vice versa) and one of those four is a Democrat.

The online edition (under the title “8 West Chester school board hopefuls represent 2 slates“) changed that quote to:

“Chester, the only registered Democrat is endorsed by the Democratic committee. Though Swalm, Kaliner and McCune are registered Republicans, they received a recommendation from the committee, but cannot be fully endorsed.”

That is a lot better, but a candidate cannot be partly endorsed. The proper term, used by the Dem committee, is “supported.”

For further confusion, the bipartisan group just described and the other four candidates, representing the current board majority (with one substitution for an outgoing board member), are all cross-filed in the primary, meaning that all eight will appear on both ballots on May 21.

Why is this such a mess? Because the whole system of electing school boards is faulty in Pennsylvania–one of only three states to put board candidates on primary ballots. Such a vital community resource as public education should not be part of the business-as-usual political process.

State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) and state representative Dan Truitt (R-156) have both filed bills to remove school board elections from the primary ballot. Rather, candidates would get on the November ballot by filing petitions over the summer, with a required number of signatures.

One of the benefits would be to give Independents–20% of the electorate, who currently have virtually zero chance of getting on a school board in our state–a chance to serve.

Finally, the print edition headline’s term “camps” suggests that electing school boards is a military or political maneuver. Rather it should be a chance for voters to mull over a diversity of candidates’ backgrounds and positions on education and our communities’ ability to support education for the common good.

West Chester

Mayor Comitta’s testimony on gas pipeline crossing

From West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta:

This evening [August 14] the PA Department of Environmental Protection held hearings at WCU’s Sykes Theater on the Williams Transco Company’s proposal to replace natural gas pipelines which cross the Brandywine. State Senators Dinniman and Rafferty were instrumental in organizing this public hearing.

Attached please find a copy of my testimony at the hearing this evening. The DEP must decide whether to issue permits to Transo to replace the pipeline utilizing a cheaper method that most environmentalists find to be more environmentally damaging than a second safer, but more more costly method. This is an issue that affects the Borough’s drinking water, and has environmental implications for our region.

For more details on the methods, please contact Senator Dinniman’s office.

Hopefully the DEP will decide to do what is in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the people they serve.

Prepared text:

August 14, 2012

To: Department of Environmental Protection
RE: Transco Pipeline replacement over the Brandywine River

As a Mayor of the Borough of West Chester, I speak on behalf of our citizens. The issue at hand is of concern to us for two reasons. First, because West Chester’s drinking water comes from the Ingram’s Mill Water Treatment Plant along the East Branch of the Brandywine River, and we want to ensure our people have access to healthy water. Second, because we care about doing the right thing to protect our environment and the environment of our neighbors in the region and beyond. We understand the concept that “we all live downstream”.

At a town meeting in 2006, a diverse group of people of the Borough of West Chester unanimously voted environmental issues as the number one concern for the future of our community. The articulation of this priority has driven Borough policy for the last 6 years. West Chester’s Borough Council has passed ordinances requiring developers to build green. Borough Council passed an ordinance to purchase 100% of its electricity through wind power. The implementation of this police costs money. I can assure you that the government of West Chester is frugal. But I can also assure you that we have our priorities straight! We are not willing to compromise the health of our citizens to save a buck.

I respect the right of a business to promote a plan that protects their bottom line.
If required to use a more expensive method, I’m sure they will pass on any extra costs to their customers. I can tell you the people of West Chester would pay the premium for the environmentally healthy option. I suspect we are not unlike most people who want to choose the best for their children and grandchildren.

It is the responsibility of elected officials and governmental agencies to uphold their pledge to protect the health safety and welfare of the people they serve. Our “bottom line” must be to require businesses to use methods that protect the people.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s mission (taken from the DEP website) is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. We will work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments and businesses to prevent pollution and restore our natural resources.

I urge the DEP to require this applicant and any applicant for that matter, to choose a method that best protects the health and safety of our citizens – that protects the Brandywine River and the drinking water supplied to our town and region. The Department of Environmental Protection exists to do just that – protect the environment – thereby protecting the people you serve.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this critical community environmental issue.