Tuesday, June 27, 2006


In 1967, when Mayor James H. J. Tate sought re-election against then District Attorney Arlen Specter, a poll showed that protecting the environment was one of the most important issues facing Philadelphia. Getting elected officials to act on poll findings like these is difficult. My father David Cohen, in his service as a City Councilman (1968 to 1971 representing the 8th District--largely Northwest Philadelphia--and 1980 to 2005 as a Councilman at Large) was unique in making improving Philadelphia's environment a top priority. He spoke at Philadelphia's Earth Day celebration in 1970, and made environmental protection a lifetime commitment.He pushed through a strong air pollution code in 1970 that stopped the practice of burning leaves and strongly regulated toxic emissions. The latter regulations were weakened when he temporarily left the office. When he returned to City Council, he pushed through one of America's first Chemical Right to Know laws, which was quickly emulated by, in order, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the federal government. He got the incinerators in Roxborough and at Delaware and Spring Garden shut down by demonstrating how expensive they were to maintain, and stopped the plan of the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce to build a large incineration plant--dubbed trash to steam--in South Philadelphia, which saved the city from paying about $200 a ton instead of the current $50 or so per ton for landfill deposit. He also introduced and pushed through the legislation that began the city's recycling program, as well as legislation restricting the growth of billboards. He fought hard to improve the Fairmount Park system, first in his home neighborhood and then throughout the city.All this created a powerful opposition constituency that ensured him primary opposition in every election. The problem is that the anti-environmental forces are united in their own self-interest, while it is very difficult to mobilize many of the pro-environmental folks. But it is the improved environment in Philadelphia--which also owes a lot to the federal and state Clean Water Acts, and federal and state Brownfields legislation aiding the cleaning up of old industrial sites--that is largely fueling Philadelphia's comeback as a residential center and tourism magnet.We need more people to act on environmental issues. They are often intellectually complex and politically difficult. But they help determine the answer as to the degree that Philadelphia will grow as a vital urban center throughout our lifetimes and those of our children and grandchildren.

May 26, 2006



John Deutsch is absolutely right that the development of cellulosic biomass can be part of a long-term alternative energy strategy, but can not be a complete long-term solution in and of itself. Sometimes advocates of alternative energy get so attached to one form or another that they lose sight of their favored alternative's limitations, and Professor (and former Secretary Deutsch) thankfully keeps his knowledge and enthusiasm in proper perspective.I thank Eldondre for calling this article in today's Wall Street Journal to our collective attention. In the long run, we are going to have affordable gasoline only when it is clear to the major oil producing countries that we have plenty of other options. Developing these other options in a rational and cost-effective way is one of our county's major challenges for the 21st Century.

May 10, 2006



Encouraging the use of ethanol in gas will be good for states in general. I certainly agree with this.Ed Rendell is likely the most deliberately pro-environmental governor since Milton Shapp left office in 1979. While other governors in between have taken various pro-environmental actions, none appear to have been as focused on the subject as Rendell has been. I am proud to have supported all his initiatives that reached the House floor, and to have worked with him in pushing other environmental goals.A link to a comprehensive speech Rendell made on this subject last year is enclosed.http://www.governor.state.pa.us/gove...?a=3&q=444223/

May 9, 2006



I certainly agree with Eldondre on the centrality of improved mass transit and rail transit towards improving both saving energy and increasing the livability of urban and suburban America. Both SEPTA and AMTRAK are underfunded and shrinking at a time when they should be thriving and growing. The Republican Party ought to be joining hands and supporting Democratic initiatives in this area instead of pushing SEPTA and AMTRAK towards ever shrinking service and ever less relevancy towards the lives of middle class America.Nuclear power has certainly made a comeback in the areas of plant safety and cost. Until means of safe and secure disposal of spent nuclear waste are found and widely accepted by the public, the expansion of nuclear power will always have both a powerful opposition constituency and an paralyzing uncertainty as to its total costs.

May 8, 2006



The reduction of water pollution gave new life to many old urban and industrialized areas. Formerly useless land suddenly became highly desirable, and the vision of an East Coast Greenway, spanning from Maine to Florida, became a reasonable goal to work towards.


Vast progress has been made toward the development of clean air, but sufferers of asthma and other diseases need us to make much more progress in the future."


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