Swift reaction from Pa., N.J. leaders as Trump pulls out of Paris accord

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President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Environmentalists, government officials, and businesses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were reacting even before President Trump finished his speech Thursday stating that the United States would immediately begin pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

Trump said he planned to renegotiate the accord, “but until then, we’re out of the agreement.” France, Germany, and Italy, however,  issued a joint statement saying there would be no renegotiation.

Gov. Wolf issued a statement decrying the pullout when news of the administration’s plans started trickling out before the speech, as Trump aides started notifying key allies.

“We cannot ignore the scientific evidence and economic significance of climate change, and put our economy and population at risk,” Wolf said.

He and 11 other Democratic governors wrote to Trump in May asking that the U.S. not pull out of the Paris pact.

Unlike many Republicans, Rep. Ryan Costello (R., Pa.) of Chester County argued that it would be in America’s economic interests to stay in the deal, while saying the pact would also help reduce emissions.

He said the agreement would provide a predictable framework for businesses facing pressure to cut emissions and would benefit Southeastern Pennsylvania’s clean energy industry. Any problems, he said, would be best addressed with the U.S. still in the deal.

“We’re better off with a seat at the table trying to modify things that we may wish to change rather than what’s being reported as a withdrawal,” Costello said.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) said pulling out puts America’s role as a global leader at risk. Meehan is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which has 40 members.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t perfect. But by abandoning it, America is relinquishing that seat at the table,” Meehan said. “It calls into question our commitment to protecting and preserving the environment. And it forfeits our ability to drive countries like China and India to reduce their carbon footprint and compete on a level playing field. Ultimately, this disappointing decision diminishes America’s leadership role on the world stage.”

Costello, Meehan. and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick all signed an April letter to Trump urging him to keep the U.S. in the climate deal, joining an effort mostly supported by Democrats. ​

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) called Trump’s decision a “double-barreled blow” to jobs in Pennsylvania, as well as to the state’s environment.

“By pulling out of an agreement to combat climate change, President Trump has put Pennsylvania workers at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for clean energy jobs,” Casey said. “Foreign countries will now take the lead in growing an industry that produces jobs with family-sustaining incomes.”

Mayor Kenney said that the city is already seeing effects of climate change.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement goes against the interests of Philadelphians,” Kenney said. “My administration is now committed to upholding at the local level the very same commitment made by the United States in the Paris climate agreement — to reduce carbon emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. This will ensure that we’re well on our way to meeting Philadelphia’s current long-term goal of reducing the city’s emissions 80 percent by 2050.”

Franco Montalto, a Drexel University professor and a director of the Urban Climate Change Research Network, said Trump might lose the chance to be a global leader.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has decided to ignore the scientific consensus concerning the risks that greenhouse gas emissions pose to life on earth,” Montalto said. “He has also brushed aside the moral arguments for action to reduce these risks, as have been articulated recently by the pope and many other religious leaders.”

Many businesses and government officials supported remaining in the accord also for diplomatic reasons, saying that the U.S. departure would let China take a leadership role. Companies including Tesla, Apple, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical had urged the president to not pull out. Energy giants Exxon and Conoco also support the Paris deal.

Pittsburgh’s mayor objected when Trump said: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted that Pittsburgh citizens voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and said the city would follow the Paris agreements even if the federal government withdraws.

Environmental organizations, not surprisingly, greeted Trump’s announcement with dismay.

“Trump removing us from the historic Paris climate agreement is clearly siding with Big Oil for short-term gain,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “What he is doing is a long-term sell-out for the environment and public health to take care of corporate polluters.“

And David Masur, PennEnvironment’s director, called the decision “embarrassing.”

“When the nations of the world joined in the Paris accord, we all finally stood as one to begin to address the climate crisis,” Masur said. “This embarrassing decision says to the world that the United States – the nation most responsible for global warming – feels no responsibility for cutting pollution, and pretends to prioritize the economy over the well-being of the world.”

But the president’s decision has supporters.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R., Pa.), who represents western counties, said the accord was never “a legitimate deal.”

“It was never submitted to the Senate for ratification because the Senate would never have ratified it,” Rothfus said. “The Paris agreement is not about climate. It is about control. It certainly is not about growth; it is about redistribution. We have a moral responsibility to create a much healthier economy that will increase jobs and increase wages. ”

Tea Party Patriots president Jenny Beth Martin agreed.

“Tea Party Patriots thanks President Donald Trump for continuing to keep the promises he made during the campaign by announcing the United States will withdraw from the Paris accord, which is a drag on our economy and a bad deal for American workers,” Martin said.