Local Context

Think Globally, Act Locally.

A solid majority of Pennsylvanians agree that the state needs to act now to minimize the effects of global warming. Many communities across America have begun to plan and implement changes necessary, as have quite a few in our region. We need to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, preferably by 2045. We know that we will need to take many steps including reducing our energy consumption through efficiencies and conservation, stop using fossil fuels, consume and eat sustainably and responsibly, reduce our waste generation and transition to sustainable transportation practices.

Transitioning to clean electricity is a necessary, core component of any solution. There are many initiatives at the Federal, State and local level to spur the transition. Locally, for example, a national movement - Ready for 100 (100% clean energy) is very active in South Eastern Pennsylvania. It is calling for local governments to lead the transition to clean renewable energy. In August of 2020, the Philadelphia Energy Authority ran our region's second annual Solar Week which makes available informative Solar Week Webinars which you can view any time.

By joining together as a community of concerned residents in Lower Merion, we can help ourselves and our neighbors understand tangible actions which we can take today, soon, and in the foreseeable future. We can advocate together so that our public and private institutions, and businesses join us in making the changes needed. Join our mailing list!

What is Happening in Lower Merion?

Last updated 4/10/2021

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): The Public Comments phase of the PA DEP's process completed 1/14/2021. Lower Merion's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a comment of the commissioners' support. Delco Times Article here (for subscriber-only viewing), and Main Line Times news article here. See more about RGGI in the Commonwealth section of this page.

Zero Carbon/Ready for 100 Resolution: On 5/19/2021, the Lower Merion Commissioners passed the Resolution, committing the township to a transition to carbon-fee energy by no later than 2045I You can read it here.

This has been in the works for years, with grassroots work by local citizens, and the Environmental Advisory Board (EAC). The resolution establishes a goal of transitioning the entire Township: residential, commercial, governmental, institutional, and school district to 100% clean renewable energy by no later than 2045. It includes interim goals and calls for the creation of an Energy Transition Plan to guide the Township's actions to meet the goals. This strategically important resolution meets the Ready for 100 standards. Work on the plan is underway.

Protecting and Renewing Tree Canopy: Our Township's tree canopy is shrinking, we need to take stronger measures to protect it. Lower Merion benefits from the foresight of those who planted trees here 50, 100, 200 years ago. A mature, healthy tree canopy or "urban forest" adds beauty, increases residential property values, sequesters carbon, helps cool us in summer and manages storm water: trees are enormously beneficial! Read about them here, 22 Benefits of Trees, and in much more detail here, Sustainable Urban Forest Guide.

  • Active Issue: The Lower Merion School District (LMSD) plans to remove over 500 healthy, mature, native trees from a forested tract of land near Stoneleigh in order to make more playing fields. Alternate solutions need to be found. Please see the News page, and take action by signing the petition, writing the school board members, or attending a demonstration on April 16th. Also support our township commissioners by letting them know this issue is important to you. They have resisted the LMSD plans as well.

Sustainability Plan: In 2018 the Lower Merion Commissioners tasked the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) to create a Sustainability Plan. This plan is under development. It is expected to be completed in 2021. The current approach is to focus the plan on Clean Energy Transition, with the intent to take on more sustainability goals over time. We will update the News Section as more information is available about the LM Sustainability Plan.

Over the course of the next few months as the plan is released for public comment, it is important to let your elected officials know you support aggressive goals and actions. We need a plan of action that will be implemented in time for all of us in Lower Merion to do our part in limiting climate change to livable levels. Specifically: urge your Commissioner to support goals in the Sustainability Plan to transition all electricity consumed in the entire Township to electricity generated from clean renewable sources by 2035, and all other energy consumption including transportation, to clean renewable sources by 2045 or 2050. This will require the development and implementation of a strategic Energy Transition Plan. At this point it is unclear if the Sustainability Plan will be sufficiently comprehensive to serve as a true Energy Transition Plan.

It is also important to acknowledge that Lower Merion Township has taken some steps to help address climate change.

  • The Township is participating in a multi-municipality planning process led by the Montgomery County Planning Commission and supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and ICLEIUSA-Local Governments for Sustainability to inventory Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions using existing information provided by DVRPC, and create implementation actions to reduce GHG emissions focusing on Township Operations' transition to clean energy - for municipal buildings and operations. The plan is expected to be available for public comment in 2021.

  • The Township achieved Sol Smart Bronze designation which means that the Township has adopted provisions to ease permitting of rooftop solar and set cost of residential permit at $400.00.

  • In 2019 Lower Merion approved an agreement to purchase renewable energy credits for a three year period.

  • The Township has converted its traffic signal lights and buildings to LED lights and is in the process of converting all its street lights to LED as well.

  • The Township has budgeted a position for a Sustainability Officer but has not yet advertised this position for hiring. We hope the Township will recognize that a Sustainability Officer provides core expertise and manpower needed by the Township and so will fill the position.

  • The EAC also reviews new developments and has supported a ban on invasive bamboo. It has a task force evaluating the ban of gas powered leaf blowers. To learn more about the environmental work the Lower Merion Township and the Environmental Advisory Council are doing, please see the Lower Merion EAC website.

We are glad that our Township has taken these initial steps. There is also much more to be done! We are still producing way more greenhouse gases in Lower Merion than is sustainable.

There are currently over 130 residential solar installations in Lower Merion Township. You can access a few short videos about this on Our Youtube Channel.

How much does Lower Merion and the region contribute to global warming?

  • Wow.... How Much Carbon Does LMT Emit? According to a 2018 DVRPC Greenhouse Gas inventory Lower Merion Township emits 755,069 MTCO2 a year - 33% from the residential sector, 35% from the commercial/industrial sector, 29% from Mobil/Highway, 1% from Mass Transit, and 3% from "other".

  • Home Energy Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Residents in Lower Merion produce 249,172 MTCO2 per year. The single largest source of home residential GHG emissions (55% ) in the Township is combustion of natural gas for heating and cooking, the second largest source is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity used in Lower Merion homes (38%). Heating oil contributes 9%.

See DVRPC Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Profile for Lower Merion Township.

What is Happening in SE PA?

Across the country municipalities representing over a quarter of the population in the US have already passed resolutions to (1) transition by 2030 or 2035, all electricy used in their jurisdiction to electricity generated by clean renewable sourced electricity, (2) to transition all other energy usage to clean renewable energy by 2045 or 2050 and (3) to begin the planning and implementation of strategies to meet these goals. Some have received planning support from ICLEI, a national non-profit. Our neighbors Haverford Township and Radnor Townships and Narberth Borough have already passed these resolutions!

As of October 2020, 33 municipalities in south eastern PA, with help from Sierra Club's Ready for 100% Clean Energy program, have passed similar resolutions! Many of those are now drafting their Climate Action or Energy Transition Plans.

As municipalities in our region adopt plans, we plan to post links to them here.

Exciting projects in our region include the City of Philadelphia's commitment to purchase all the power from an 80 MW solar farm in Adams County to meet a portion of its electrical demand for its buildings. The University of Pennsylvania has committed to a similar plan. So has SEPTA. In July of 2020 Montgomery County implemented C-PACE, a program for low-cost financing of commercial clean energy and conservation projects.

How much does our region contribute to global warming?

  • According to a 2018 DVRPC report, Greater Philadelphia, with roughly 1.8 percent of the nation’s population, has a per capita net emissions rate of 12.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCO2e)—about 38 percent below the national average of about 21 MTCO2e per capita. It’s important to note that DVRPC’s accounting for GHGs emitted due to activity in the region does not account for energy and emissions resulting from the manufacture of goods imported into the region, nor does it discount from regional emissions the GHGs associated with the manufacture of goods exported from the region. Such an accounting is beyond the scope of DVRPC’s current inventory.

  • Yet, globally, the Greater Philadelphia region’s total emissions are comparable to those of Austria, a nation with roughly 1.5 times the population of Greater Philadelphia. For further comparison, China and India, the world’s most populous countries, have per capita GHG emissions rates of about 8.5 MTCO2e and 2.5 MTCO2e, respectively.

  • A great deal of information is gathered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). Greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast PA, county by county, and also by township, can be downloaded from DVRPC Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and DVRPC Greater Philadelphia Inventory page.

  • Learn how the electricity is produced in our region and how the emissions from that generation compare with the rest of the country: EPA Information.

What is Happening in the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth of PA is the fourth-largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the country. The legislature has resisted passing proposed legislation that would change state policies and laws and accelerate the transition to clean energy. We had been a leader in the country, but in recent years we have fallen well behind other states as the fracking industry has sought to slow or stop state initiatives to transition to clean energy. For a broader summary see Penn Futures Clean Energy page.

See the News page for an urgent update concerning new threats to RGGI implementation.

Governor Wolf decided to pursue certain policies using executive authority, including a recent decision to undertake the process to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This is one of the most significant efforts that could help Pennsylvania move towards clean energy. See Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for current details.

  • The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is a cooperative effort among 10 New England and Mid-Atlantic states wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector while generating economic growth. RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States. Since it took effect in 2009, carbon emissions from power plants in RGGI states have fallen by 47%. This decline is 90% greater than in the rest of the United States. (Virginia is in the process of joining as well.)

  • PA is the only state in this region that has not yet joined RGGI. Governor Wolf made an executive order instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). DEP will draft a regulation to present before the Environmental Quality Board for approval, and a public comment period will follow. Learn more about RGGI in Pennsylvania and why it is so important.

  • DEP’s modeling estimates that from 2022 to 2030, participating in RGGI would lead to an increase in Gross State Product of nearly $2 billion and a net increase of over 27,000 jobs in this Commonwealth. The results also show that overall, citizens of this Commonwealth could see a cumulative increase in Disposable Personal Income of $3.7 billion by 2050. These estimates are at the low end because they do not include investments of RGGI revenues in things like energy efficiency improvements for businesses and homeowners, economic support for communities that see changes resulting from changing electricity generation and usage, and clean energy sources.

  • View a video summarizing current legislation in PA legislature in the fall of 2020. Now, of course, there are new bills being considered. See our News page.

A cap on carbon emissions from electricity is critical, but it won’t solve all of Pennsylvania’s energy problems. The state also needs to address methane emissions, which have over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

State Level Policy Discussions: To follow policy and discussions at the state level you can subscribe to the free newsletter, PA Environment Digest.