Category Archives: Environment

Common Environmental Agenda for Chester County, 2022

Download the full 26-page pdf HERE.

CCEA’s Common Environmental Agenda is a comprehensive series of recommendations made to the Chester County Commissioners by some of the member groups of CCEA plus other organizations. Thanks to all who participated in creating it and in advance to the Commissioners for their careful attention to it!

From the Introduction:

As time passes, it is increasingly clear that our environment needs to become a higher priority for us all. We deserve — as written into the Pennsylvania Constitution (Article 1, section 27) — clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and protected natural spaces. All of these rights, unfortunately, are threatened by many circumstances….

Man-made climate change has gone from a distant threat to a present danger; it is time for us all, as a Countywide community, to do our part to usher in new ways of sustainable living and long-term decision-making….

Brandywine in flood, Pocopson, 2021

We commend the Chester County Commissioners and the Environmental and Energy Advisory Board for finalizing the County’s first Climate Action Plan in 2021, giving our County a road map of how to mitigate our own impacts on climate change and improve the resiliency of our communities.

As groups that focus on environment and sustainability, we are conscious also of working within a society that prioritizes human needs such as housing, health care, education, and family-supporting jobs… Our solutions moving forward must be creative, just, and intersectional. This Common Environment Agenda is just the beginning.

Geothermal plant, West Chester University

The undersigned groups have come together to present achievable solutions to the Chester County Board of Commissioners, divided into eight issue areas, with a specific list of recommendations for each topic. Many of these solutions and programs are already being discussed or acted upon in many parts of Chester County….

We believe that the county is the best governmental entity to lead in environmental progress because it is of manageable size and united purpose, its municipalities need coordinated guidance and assistance, and we cannot always count on the state and federal governments to implement far-sighted policies. Therefore, we look forward to working with the Commissioners and the Chester County Environment and Energy Advisory Board as well as the County’s various departments to implement the following solutions.

Backyard compost pile


Open Space & Development
Clean Energy
Public Health & Toxins
Consumption & Waste

West Chester Porchfest, May 21, 2022

by Margaret Hudgings

Inspired by Transition thinking, the West Chester Green Team formed a committee and created a music festival for West Chester. 

What is Transition?  It is an international movement started in the UK whose goal is helping communities as they transition to a new economy–away from fossil fuels and to healthier forms of energy.  When people are in transition, they can feel isolated and lost.  They can also lack the skills needed to thrive in a new economy.  Transition towns try to address these issues.  They focus on teaching and modeling skills such as gardening, repairing items of all sorts, founding a buy nothing economy so people can offer items they no longer need to others who need them, and also creating celebrations to help everyone through challenging times.  Thus, WC Porchfest was born.

The Green Team followed the model of another international movement in creating this event locally.  PORCHFEST originated in Ithaca NY in 2007.  It has now spread across the US and Canada. Porchfest events bring local musicians and neighborhoods together to celebrate and create a sense of community.  We used the blueprint of Porchfest in Binghamton, NY provided to us by a member who has attended other Porchfest events.

Our committee had representatives recruiting bands and front porches, getting sponsorships, interfacing with local government, making maps, arranging food trucks, interfacing with the local community and handling publicity.  Saturday, May 21 is Porchfest Day.  Hoping now for lovely weather and lots of fun.

The GT Porchfest Committee projected about 20 musical acts for our first year but closed registration when we reached 52.  We also have 36 front porches and a local church which is welcoming attendees by setting up outdoor tables with seating for 50, adjacent to a gathering of food trucks. 

The musical acts range from jazz to classical with lots of rock and some unique additions such as a performance of organ grinder music boxes by a local collector and a Japanese singer who will also demonstrate how to dress in kimono.  A local dance studio will perform in the park. Children’s activities will be there and include arts and crafts, planting and a musical instrument petting zoo. 

The local food co-op will provide free strawberry shortcake, and the Buy Nothing group will host an old fashioned white elephant fishing pond.  We have also added in 2 porch displays of our environmental work, one based on Doug Tallamy’s vision of planting native species of flowers and trees and another featuring our newest Dark Sky Committee.  

We benefited from the help of local leaders with Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste cosponsoring the event.  We highly recommend the Porchfest model for community outreach, as we are connecting with a new demographic.  We are not preaching to the choir as so often happens with green events. And Porchfest is upbeat.  It is essential to inspire and energize our supporters and this event seems an excellent vehicle for delivering our message.  

Celebrating Earth Month, April 2021

Earth Day, going strong since 1970, was not enough; so, we got Earth Week and now Earth Month. Soon: Earth Year, every year!

What is available to us in Chester County this month? Please see the calendar above and click on events for details.

Locally, some events are now (at last!) in person, with distancing and masks, like the Goose Creek invasive plant removal on April 17 and the Art Stroll and Festival in West Chester on the actual Earth Day, April 22 (with also an online component featuring work of WCU students). Many of us are ready to start moving around outdoors!

Other events are virtual of local origin, like the Local Gardening and Living Landscapes panel on April 7, Why Our Pollinators Are in Trouble on April 13, the Plastic Free Chester County panel on April 21, and the Life of Rachel Carson one-woman performance on April 26.

Other events are virtual from state or national sources, allowing us to take part in oportunities that we probably could not have pre-Covid, such as the new film A River Reborn on April 8 or renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe’s address “Christians, Climate, and our Culture in the U.S.” on April 22.

Furthermore, beginning April 22, the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville is hosting Two documentaries on Plastics with on-site screening and, online, a documentary about Pennsylvania native Rachel Carson including two interviews with her.

And April 30 is Arbor Day: the perfect time to plant a tree in honor of Earth!

And much more! Please peruse the calendar carefully so you don’t miss anything you’d like to attend.

Apply by Oct. 18 to Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board

UPDATE to our Sept. 17 post: “Resumes and cover letters from people who are interested in being considered for a position on the Board… can be sent to Deputy County Administrator Kara Rahn at by Friday, October 18, 2019.”

Chester County has just set up a Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board to make recommendations to the County, municipalities, the public, and businesses. The official description is below. The County will soon be taking steps to secure the needed 22 members. Citizens are entitled to 4 of the 22 seats.

The other 18 members are: 7 officials ex officio; 4 representatives of businesses; 2 each of land conservancies and utility companies; and 1 each of 3 other associations. When application and selection guidelines are published, we will know whether the organizations in each category will basically select the members, or recommend candidates to the Commissioners, or neither. Let’s hope that the Board will rapidly stimulate actual badly-needed changes in policy and practice.


Purpose: The purpose of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board is to provide recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, applicable County departments, municipalities, citizens, and businesses by:

Recommending best environmental and energy practices in the areas of buildings, facilities and operations; fuels, vehicles, and transportation; food; responsible purchasing; housing; energy sources; air quality; stormwater management; natural resource protection; and climate change.

Identifying environmental and energy policies the County has adopted and recommending ways to promote and educate about Chester County’s environmental and energy initiatives.

Identifying and recommending voluntary actions, projects, and programs for municipalities, businesses, non-profits, and other partners to implement county environmental and energy policies.

Reviewing and providing input into a Climate Action Plan.

Recommending environmental and energy related actions, projects, and programs to the Board of Commissioners for implementation

Membership: The membership of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board shall be appointed by the Chester County Board of Commissioners and shall be selected so as to represent the citizens, businesses, and the County. The Membership of the Advisory Board shall include:

Four Chester County citizens

Four Chester County business representatives

One representative of Chester County Economic Development Council’s Smart Energy Initiative (SEI)

One representative of Chester County Association of Township Officials

One representative of Chester County Municipal Managers Consortium

Two representatives of Chester County’s land conservancies

Two representatives of Utility companies serving Chester County

Executive Director of Chester County Planning Commission

Executive Director of Chester County Water Resources Authority

Chester County Director of Open Space, Parks and Trails

Chester County Director of Emergency Services

Director of Chester County Conservation District

Director of Chester County Facilities Management

Director of Chester County Health Department

The Chairman of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board may appoint experts to the Board, as necessary, however those appointed experts shall not have a vote.

Vacancies shall be filled by the Chester County Board of Commissioners. County staff board seats will be ex-officio members.

Terms: The term of each of the members of the board shall be two years, except that, when the board is first created, half of the members shall be appointed for three years and half for two years.

The Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda

In 2018, CCEA member PennFuture presented its Green in ’18 campaign, with an eye to securing commitments from the then gubernatorial candidates.

At the same time, a Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda was worked out by 25 environmental groups including CCEA members Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, PennEnvironment PennFuture, and Sierra Club. Download that document here: Updated-Final-Version-of-the-PA-Common-Conservation-Agenda-5.1.18.

PennFuture explains:

PennFuture has been working with 20+ environmental, land, air, and water groups and organizations to identify the biggest environment challenges facing Pennsylvania. As a result, this coalition has created and agreed upon the most promising policy solutions to these threats. This process led to the creation of the first-ever Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda, a blueprint for restoring and preserving our life-sustaining natural resources.

Not only do these solutions promote a healthier environment and a stronger economy, they are publicly popular, fiscally responsible, and can be enacted by our next Governor using his or her executive authority. In virtually every instance, increases in state spending will be offset through job growth, revenue growth, energy savings, and/or lower healthcare costs….

The points in the Pennsylvania Common Conservation Agenda are:

1. Strengthen the 21st Century Workforce through Green Jobs
2. Champion the Great Waters of Pennsylvania from Source to Tap
3. Provide the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with
the Needed Resources to Fulfill Their Missions
4. Improve the Department of Environmental Protection’s Ability to Protect the Public from Threats Posed by NaturalGas and Petrochemical Infrastructure
5 Ensure Environmental Justice for Vulnerable Communities
6 Boost Current Investments in Growing Greener
7 Bolster the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy Sector

These valuable goals remain works in progress. Two underlying principles from the Introduction are:

• a healthy environment renders possible the governance, education, business, and recreation that the people who live and work in our Commonwealth need, expect, and depend on

• a healthy environment is compatible with a strong business climate

And here are a few painful reminders of how much needs to be done:

• Pennsylvania has the third worst air quality in the United States

• Pennsylvania’s poorest residents are often the ones who live next to polluting industrial facilities, such as power plants, factories, transportation hubs, gas wells, and other sources of pollution

• Attracting greater clean energy investment to Pennsylvania will require the Commonwealth to solve numerous financing challenges that currently hinder the state’s clean energy industry

Read the full report!

Otten introduces plan to amend Pa. constitution for local self-government

[Why is this important for environment and sustainability? The US says states can’t protect themselves (e.g., by setting their own gas mileage standards) and the state says counties and municipalities can’t protect themselves (e.g., by regulating petroleum products pipelines). It’s time for municipalities to take back the right to work for the health, safety and welfare of their own residents. If the state of Pennsylvania cannot adequately implement its own constitution’s environmental rights amendment, then the levels of government closer to the grassroots need to do the job.]

Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, October 3, 2019 | 5:13 PM

Area officials support efforts

EXTON, Oct. 3 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, today announced a proposal for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution.

Otten’s amendment, H.B. 1813, would allow municipal governments to enact laws protecting the health and safety of their communities without interference from corporations or pre-emption by the state or federal government.

“Today, I stood with local elected officials and members of our community to announce a proposal for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would recognize the fundamental right of the people to local self-government and place the rights of citizens over the interests of private corporations,” Otten said. “Under current law in Pennsylvania, corporations can sue state and federal governments to override community attempts to protect themselves from projects with the potential to cause great personal or environmental harm. It is time we correct that failure.”

Otten was joined by Uwchlan Township Supervisor Bill Miller, West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin, community organizer and Downingtown Area School Board director Rebecca Britton, PA Community Rights Network President Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck and a volunteer leader with the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action, Erin Buchner.

Miller noted the current inability of townships to regulate the proliferation of cellular towers, the presence of guns in local parks or the sale of fireworks within township borders.

Uwchlan Township Supervisor Mayme Baumann also expressed support for the proposed amendment, stating, “Pennsylvania is a diverse patchwork of rural townships, suburban areas, small towns, and cities. This amendment would help us create a government that better reflects the values of our communities and gives municipalities the ability to protect their residents’ health, safety and natural resources.”

Britton discussed the importance of the legislation for communities living with pipeline construction, noting that “we the people can no longer protect our property as guaranteed us by the Pennsylvania constitution, because a private entity is shipping off our natural resources for plastics production, and in turn has put our private property at risk.”

Buchner commented on the need for the amendment as it relates to gun safety.

“Pre-emption laws override commonsense. In Pennsylvania, the state legislature has prohibited guns in the state Capitol and on state properties, while at the same time it pre-empts local governments from restricting guns in municipal buildings or in any city or town hall.”

Herrin described the ways that pre-emption ties her hands as a mayor on issues including gun safety, environmental initiatives, and taxing authority.

“We have a $20 million unfunded pension liability in West Chester because we have a large police force,” Herrin said. “I can’t protect my constituents from carrying the tax burden because the state will not allow us to generate revenue in any other way than through three very limited taxing authorities.”

Harnish Clatterbuck discussed the impact when a pipeline project called Atlantic Sunrise came through her Lancaster County community.

“We discovered that a company in Oklahoma had more power to do on our property what they wanted than we had the right to stop them. We were overruled by the regulatory agencies and by pre-emption, which has allowed our elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington to violate the health and safety of the people they have been elected to represent.”

For more information, those interested can call Otten’s office at 484-200-8259.