NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> About a month after passing a resolution urging Congress to pass climate change legislation, the Newtown Borough Council passed a similar resolution urging the state legislature to do the same.
The council voted unanimously at its August 7 meeting to approve the resolution, which calls on the Pennsylvania legislature to consider and pass a bill which will significantly address the causes of climate change.
In its resolution, the Council acknowledges its commitment to fighting climate change and to protecting borough residents from the impacts of climate change and air pollution.
“Climate change,” reads the resolution, “poses a serious threat to Newtown Borough in terms of the economic, public health and environmental consequences of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases contribute to poor air quality in Lower Bucks County, which can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular issues.
“As a result of climate change,” the resolution continues, “Bucks County and the Northeastern United States are experiencing higher average daytime and nighttime temperatures resulting in erratic weather patterns, increasing invasion of non-native plants and insects and an increase in the number of days a year during which harmful species – such as ticks carrying Lyme and other diseases and mosquitoes are active.
“More frequent heat waves in Newtown Borough and the Northeast are expected to threaten human health through an increase in heat stress,” says the resolution. “More excessive heat impacts outdoor activities such as individual and team sports played on local fields, and residents and tourists who use outdoor facilities for biking, hiking and sightseeing, as well as those residents who work in the construction and landscaping industries or hire persons who perform such work.”
The resolution adds that “an increase in the amount of and frequency of rainfall measured during precipitation events are expected to increase local flooding of streams. This will also regionally contribute to higher water levels in the Delaware Bay, threatening storm water drainage systems, roads, Delaware River fresh water intake locations, buildings, bridges, and infrastructure.
“With the rise in temperatures and the increase in erratic rainfall patterns,” the resolution continues, “agriculture in Bucks County and Pennsylvania is already experiencing reduced yields, potentially damaging livelihoods and the regional economy. We have already seen agriculture impacts, which affect local farmers who sell organic food at farmers markets in Bucks County.”
The resolution concludes by saying that the “legislature has the responsibility to act swiftly and meaningfully on the issue of climate change.
“Legislation addressing climate change should not be economically burdensome to Newtown Borough residents,” says the resolution, “but must significantly improve environmental and associated economic outcomes.”
Finally, the council requests “that our State Representative Perry Warren cosponsor and vote for an appropriate House Bill, which will significantly address the causes of climate change based on sound science and that our State Senator, Steve Santarsiero, cosponsor and vote for the Senate Companion Bill to that bill as soon as it is introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate.”
Prior to the vote, councilor Bob King proposed several changes to the language of the Revolution, including a line that the causes be addressed “based on sound science.”
He also recommended wording changes reflective of the possibility that climate change “could” pose serious threats and “not that it’s absolutely going to happen.”
King, a former science teacher who believes climate change is taking place, noted that the root cause of climate change continues to be “unsettled science,” and implored council to reflect that in the language.
“From what I read, there are enough people who don’t necessarily agree. We need to look at both sides. There are other opinions,” said King.
His changes were accepted by council and included in the final version of the resolution passed by council.
In other business at its August 7 meeting, council delayed action on another resolution requesting that the state legislature ban Styrofoam cups and take-out containers.
The delay will give the Borough an opportunity to informally survey the town’s eateries and restaurants on the idea.
“I’d just like input before we go ahead with it,” said Council President Kevin McDermott, urging council to hold off on a vote until September.
Councilwoman Julia Woldorf brought the resolution to the council table at the request of the borough’s Environmental Advisory Council. It is modeled after a resolution drafted by PennEnvironment, a Philadelphia-based policy and action group lobbying to build a greener, healthier world.
“It doesn’t mention specific legislation, but it does talk about the problem of polystyrene containers,” said Woldorf of the resolution. “The problem is they are very difficult, if not impossible to recycle. They are going into the environment and they take 500 years to decompose.
“And if you heat up food in them, you run the risk of having some of the toxic chemicals leach into your food. They create a hazard to wildlife because they break down into smaller pieces that wildlife ingest, it pollutes our rivers and it gives us more trash to pick up.”
The purpose of the resolution, said Woldorf, is to let State Sen. Steve Santarsiero and State Rep. Perry Warren “know that Newtown Borough is supportive of their efforts to start this action.”
In other business, Woldorf asked council to begin thinking about the idea of hiring a borough manager.
The Borough has operated for years without a manager, relying on a full-time borough secretary and financial director to run the town’s administrative offices.
“As we are approaching the budget season we need to give serious consideration to budgeting and looking into a borough manager,” said Woldorf. “We have many issues that have come up over the past 10 years that could have been taken care of much more expeditiously if we had a manager.
“Judy and Pat do their jobs very well,” she added. “We need someone who is a trained manager who has the ability to do the kind of managerial activities that a manager would do,” said Woldorf.
Native Plants Demo Project
In other news, council voted to donate $100 on behalf of the borough’s EAC to the Bucks County Audubon Society in support of the Newtown Native Plants Demonstration Project.
The event will include a pop up garden in front of the Historic Newtown Theatre on Sept. 7, a Beer and Birds Festival organized by the Delaware Valley Brewers Association on Sept. 19 and an environmental film festival. The event is scheduled for Sept. 7 to 19.
The event, being organized by the Audubon Society and the Newtown Township EAC, will not only promote the pop up garden, but also Newtown Common Park located just around the corner from the theater and planted with native vegetation.