Melody Fleck, a PA candidate for community and environmental health

Citizens of Pennsylvania’s 171st district, you need to vote for Melody Fleck. I’ve known Melody for a few years now as a community and environmental activist and I’m pleased to call her a friend and ally. Melody knows we have to fight climate change, pass sensible energy policy, support smart and sustainable agriculture, and protect our forest and natural landscapes.

melody-fleckI know that Melody understands the urgency of addressing climate change as a Pennsylvania issue. With Pennsylvania the second biggest electricity exporter in the nation, we have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to transform our energy infrastructure. Like you and me, Melody knows that we can become leaders in renewable energy and energy conservation in buildings that support high-paying jobs.

She knows that we need good policy. This means we have to incentivize home and property owners to install renewable energy systems and high-efficiency technologies. We have to remove caps on net metering so residents can be fairly compensated by utilities. That’s a move for personal and family energy independence. It’s time to support community choice and community solar projects. Knowing that 40% of power is used in buildings, we have a huge opportunity to spur good jobs and healthier work environments by fully funding the High Performance Building Program. With green contracting, solar and geothermal installations on the rise in this district, and our proximity to Penn State with strong grid, renewable, and green building programs, Fleck is talking common sense for our future. It’s no wonder that both Sierra Club Moshannon and the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council endorsed her.

We know that methane—the main component of natural gas—is a greenhouse gas more than 70 times as potent as carbon dioxide in the short term. That means that the fracking boom of the last decade has been a climate bust. While natural gas could have served as a bridge fuel to a clean energy future, something many hoped for, it hasn’t. Fleck knows that it’s time to keep fossil fuels in the ground. She knows it’s time to rein this industry in.

As a mother, the health and safety of infants and children motivates her commitments to clean energy. Like Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, she knows that continuing fracking threatens public health. In fact, those groups found in their review of 500 fracking-related studies that there is “no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.”

What about her opponent? I’ve met Kerry Benninghoff and I think he’s a decent man and a devoted father. But his voting record on energy and the environment is shockingly poor. Benninghoff received a 0% on the Pennsylvania Environmental Scorecard in two different years. And we know he’s taken money from Chesapeake Energy for his campaign and that his voting record falls in line. For example, he voted for Act 13, significant portions of which the state Supreme Court has found unconstitutional. This is no surprise from an industry with leaders like Chesapeake Energy who, among other things, are under federal investigation for a whole host of violations including swindling property owners, antitrust and water contamination. Melody knows our communities need someone in Harrisburg who will fight for them, not the gas companies.

The 171st district includes large and small farms, forests, and places for outdoor recreation. From Reedsville to Penn’s Valley to Ferguson Township, the district is home to conventional commodity crop farms, beef, poultry and pork operations, organic vegetable farms, and grassfed dairy farms. Fleck will support sensible farming bills and conservation grants for wise land use and smart approaches to pollution entering the state’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. We know that she will be thoughtful and fair, ensuring that our state’s number one economic driver—agriculture—is protected and sustained.

I love the Bald Eagle and Rothrock State forests. They are treasures. Every year, thousands of us enjoy hiking, running, biking, skiing and hunting on some of the best trail systems in the state. We camp, swim, picnic, and attend programs in the 171st’s state parks.

Unlike Rep. Benninghoff, Melody would never support our former Governor’s move to open up the forests to more drilling and to drilling in our state parks. Unlike Rep. Benninghoff, she would oppose provisions that would allow fracking operations within 300 feet of trout stream. Unlike Rep. Bennighoff who co-sponsored a bill to turn state park land into golf courses or water parks, Fleck will support the commonwealth’s award-winning park system.

There are a host of other things that I’d be remiss not to mention. Melody supports good public education and bolstering public colleges and universities. She wants to work to control the ballooning costs of pensions and health care costs. Our state has major infrastructure challenges. And while we live in a racially homogenous district, Melody knows that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that justice and equality live everywhere and that no one–black or white, Asian or Hispanic, gay or straight, religious or non-religious–is pushed aside or left behind.

Finally, we have to face the fact that Kerry Benninghoff hasn’t disavowed the crude, racist, anti-woman rhetoric of Donald Trump. Rather than stand up for decency, respect and the dignity of all Americans, Benninghoff has remained silent even as his own party’s leaders, including former PA Representative Bill Clinger and current Representative Charlie Dent.

Want dignity? Want a clean energy future? Want beautiful land and healthy prosperous communities? If you live in the 171st district, support Melody Fleck by donating here and then vote for her on November 8th.

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