Sign-on letter in Opposition to SB275 / HB1947

December 13, 2021

Dear Members of the Pennsylvania House:

The undersigned group of community leaders and members representing environmental, conservation, clean energy, and faith groups across the state urge your OPPOSITION to Senate Bill 275 (P.N. 1163) and House Bill 1947 (P.N. 2223). SB 275 passed the state Senate on October 27th and was referred to the House Local Government Committee on October 28. This followed after HB 1947 was reported out of the same committee on October 26. 

These companion bills have identical language, blocking local governments from adopting any policy that would have the “effect of” limiting gas use in buildings. In other words, this legislation would strip local control and block any municipal effort to improve public health and combat climate change by cleaning up residential and commercial buildings. The bills are written to be overbroad, so that municipal attempts to improve energy efficiency or offer incentives for cleaner appliances would be open to a legal challenge in state court.

Pennsylvania’s municipal officials are responsible for the health and safety of their residents, and must continue to exercise their authority to enact policies in the best interest of their communities. Plainly stated, SB 275 and HB 1947 would usurp this local authority. Local elected officials represent the level of government closest to the people they govern. They focus on the critical issues that matter most to local people, and these priorities differ widely across the Commonwealth. As residents in some parts of Pennsylvania are becoming increasingly aware of the climate, health, and safety risks of burning methane in our buildings, they are looking for alternatives to protect their health and our environment.

In 2019, residential and commercial buildings accounted for 27% of total U.S. gas consumption. The scientific community has been clear: in order to meet our climate goals, we must decarbonize our entire economy. Stripping away control from local officials to incentivize any alternatives to gas infrastructure will make meeting that goal harder to achieve and more expensive. It is estimated that, if passed, SB 275 and HB 1947 would prevent Pennsylvania from tackling 13.7 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 30 years, hamstringing local communities from reducing their climate pollution.

It is already cheaper to build new homes with electric-only appliances, to say nothing of the cost of future retrofits. Furthermore, the expansion of gas distribution infrastructure is fiscally irresponsible as it will likely lead to significant stranded assets, a cost that will inevitably be borne by ratepayers.

Ensuring that local officials have authority to implement policies promoting cleaner energy alternatives is also important for protecting public health.  Burning methane emits pollutants. The resulting mix of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), fine particulates, formaldehyde, and other pollutants can have serious health ramifications such as increased risk of asthma, aggravated respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms, and neurological conditions.

Research also suggests that long-term average NO2 exposure can increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, and premature mortality. A UCLA study found that gas stoves and ovens lead to indoor air pollution levels that exceed state and federal standards for acute outdoor air pollution in 90% of homes after just one hour of use. As a consequence, children who grow up in a home with a gas stove are 42% more likely to develop asthma than those who don’t.

A recent study from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health examined the health impacts of combustion of all fuels for various end uses and found that in 2017:

  • Pennsylvania ranked second among all states in premature deaths attributable to fuel combustion in buildings (over 1,500 people);

  • Nearly a quarter of those deaths were attributable to burning methane; and

  • The cost of negative health impacts of burning gas in buildings in Pennsylvania was over $4.2 billion per year.

Explosions and fires are also concerns that stem from the use of gas, such as the explosion in South Philadelphia that killed two people in late 2019. It is estimated that local fire departments respond to an average of 340 gas leaks per day (a number that is increasing as infrastructure ages), and that methane ignition is the cause of 4,200 structure fires and 40 deaths per year.

Moreover, these bills are likely unconstitutional. Pennsylvania courts have a history of striking down a wide variety of state laws that preempted local governments, including Act 192 of 2014 (gun control) and Act 13 of 2012 (regulating oil and gas development). Language slipped into a recent budget that prohibits municipal bans or taxes on plastic bags or packaging is currently being challenged in Commonwealth Court. Specifically, given the climate and health risks posed by gas burning and infrastructure, these bills likely violate Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which establishes a trustee obligation for the Commonwealth to preserve and maintain our public natural resources, including clean air. If the state prevents municipalities from protecting air quality (as these bills would do), it violates this responsibility.

SB 275 and HB 1947 are part of a coordinated, national effort by the fossil fuel industry to strip control away from local leaders. In 2019, cities in states outside Pennsylvania began taking steps to limit gas connections in new construction. In response, the American Gas Association, a trade organization “representing energy companies that deliver natural gas,” has been pushing state legislatures across the country to pass laws prohibiting these local policies. So far, over 20 states have adopted legislation to preempt local governments and similar legislation has been introduced in many others, including SB 275 and HB 1947 here in Pennsylvania.

Given this, we ask that you vote NO on SB 275 and HB 1947. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel, Clean Air Council

David Masur, Executive Director, PennEnvironment

Jacquelyn Bonomo, President and CEO, PennFuture

Steven Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action

Katie Blume, Political Director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

Liz Robinson, Executive Director, Philadelphia Solar Energy Association

Patrice Tomcik, National Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force

Jennifer Krill, Executive Director, Earthworks

Katie Bartolotta, Policy and Programs Director, Green Building United

Mark Szybist, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council

Tom Schuster, Clean Energy Program Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter

Tonyehn Verkitus, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility PA

Joy Bergey, Director, Environmental Justice Center of Chestnut Hill United Church

Ron Celentano, President, PA Solar & Storage Industries Association

Emma Horst-Martz, Advocate, PennPIRG

Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director, POWER Interfaith

Elena Weissmann, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Vote Solar

Sandra Strauss, Director of Advocacy & Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Kathy Cook, League of Women Voters PA Environmental Policy Director, LWVPA

Arthur Purcaro, Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Co-Chair of the Sustainability Leadership Council, Villanova University

Peter Crownfield, Coordinator, Alliance for Sustainable Communities-Lehigh Valley

Glenn Olcerst, General Counsel, Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh

Dara Bortman, CEO, Sustainable Solar Systems

Garth Ehrlich, Dr., Ehrlich Biomedical Consulting LLC

Daniel Rossi-Keen, Executive Director, RiverWise

Jose Duenas, Manager of school programs, Schuylkill Center For Environmental Education

Fred Kraybill, Manager, Thomas Blvd Group

Sharon Furlong, Spokesperson, Bucks Environmental Action

Susan Murawski, President, Presque Isle Audubon Society

Nancy Winkler, Member, Climate Action Lower Merion

Sue Xue Ming, Professor of Neurology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Glenn Wenger, Member, West Pikeland Township Environmental Advisory Council

Linda Sander, Social Justice Committee Chair, Unitarian Congregation of West Chester

Tracy Lira, H-CAN Climate Action Group Leader, H-CAN

Steve Olshevski, Earthcare Activist, Eco Justice Collaborative

Mitch Chanin, Co-Chair, Climate Justice Caucus, Reclaim Philadelphia

Mark Squilla, City Councilmember, Philadelphia 

Erika Strassburger, Pittsburgh City Council Member, City of Pittsburgh

Jim Lee, Commissioner, Springfield Township (Montco)

Ward Allebach, Adjunct Professor,   University of Pittsburgh

Karen Beck Pooley, Professor of Practice, Lehigh University

Erik Cordes, Professor and Vice Chair of BIology, Temple University

Dr. Lana Fishkin, MD

Amanda Wooden, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies & Sciences, Bucknell University

Dr. Shelley Ross 

Casey Schneck, Program Admin, Keystone Trails Association

Dr. Elizabeth Lowenthal, Pediatrician, 

Dennis Ray, East Pikeland Twp. EAC Chair, 

Barbara Gold, Physician 

Michael Butler, Associate Professor, Lafayette College

Scott Van Bramer, Professor of Chemistry, Widener University

Paloma Vila, Sustainability Manager, Township of Lower Merion

Stew Friedman, Professor of Management Practice, The Wharton School, U of Pennsylvania 

Avinash Linganna, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Cheryl Fattibene, Professor, Temple University 

Breena Holland, Professor, Lehigh University

Charles Jones, Senior Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Corinne Masur, PCOP

Mark Putnam, MD, Berkshire Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Services

Alan Peterson, Emeritus Director of Environmental and Community Medicine at Lancaster General Health

Shawn Hogan , Chair, Philly DSA