We must take a closer look at how our state is running things pertaining to infrastructure and access, especially for our rural communities.
INFRASTRUCTURE: LET'S GET TO WORK FIXING A BROKEN SYSTEM
WHAT'S GOING ON?
Pennsylvania's infrastructure is among the oldest and most outdated in the country. Although the Governor, the legislature and city and local governments have taken some strides over the last decade to improve some parts of our infrastructure, we have a long way to go. Peter will work across the aisle to advance legislation and budgets that will employ thousands of Pennsylvanians from GED to Ph.D., enable smart commerce, strengthen the health and security of our communities, and ensure that we are responding to changes in technology and our environment.
The Pennsylvania branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Pennsylvania’s infrastructure a C- in 2018. As the body that works to ensure the safety, health and welfare of the public, they showed us what our funding priorities should be changed to “meet the current and future needs of the Commonwealth.” They noted three areas of improvement: roads, levees and bridges. However, the significant neglect of public infrastructure by legislators has left us in precarious positions in urban and rural areas.
Five areas stand out for particular concern.
FIVE AREAS OF CONCERN
1. ENERGY: Pennsylvania powers the Mid-Atlantic. We have strong energy generation, transmission, and distribution sectors that are transforming as solar power, wind energy and battery storage come online. Additionally, technologies like net metering and microgrids are altering the landscape. But Pennsylvania must contend with rising energy dependence and reliability requirements, infrastructure in decline, as well as physical and cyber threats. Our utilities, electric generation companies, regulators, and policymakers need to ensure that investments and proposed projects address future system needs in response to public opinion, rising demand for zero-carbon electricity and resilience in the face of climate change.
2. STORMWATER: A sizeable portion of Pennsylvania’s stormwater infrastructure is 100- or more years-old. It needs regular repairs, replacement, and capacity upgrades. Peak storm intensity from climate change has gone up 70% over recent decades, accelerating the stress on the system, a stress that crosses into other infrastructure. Additionally, public and private infrastructure agreements—or lack thereof—make maintenance and security additionally difficult in a state with more miles of moving surface water than any state except Alaska. Quite frankly, funding for these improvements have been inconsistent for municipalities across the Commonwealth, driving many of them—including Ferguson Township where Peter served on the Board—to consider Stormwater Impact Fees and utilities. The state should further empower local governments to apply a stormwater use-based revenue system to fund the operation, maintenance and upgrades of stormwater assets and set aside funding for those municipalities that lack the fiscal strength to do so.
3. DRINKING WATER and LEAD: Pennsylvania’s drinking water infrastructure is in trouble. Across the state, cast iron makes up the majority of our water mains. Since 2012, we’ve seen break rates of nearly 35 per 100 miles per year, a 43% increase since 2012. Smaller municipal water systems have eschewed raising rates to tackle these problems. This includes the Spring Township Water Authority in 2017-18. They looked for alternative funding to back up wells, including working with large corporations like Nestle, a corporation known for abusing municipalities and pumping at high rates even during drought conditions. These situations can’t hold. According to the ASCE, “Over the next ten years, Pennsylvania’s PWSs are projected to have a $10.2 billion funding gap. To meet this gap, these systems will likely need to adopt full-cost pricing and find new technologies to reduce consumption and waste.” The Legislature should work with municipalities to create sustainable funding streams to reduce health risks, environmental impacts, and financial losses.
Lead presents a special challenge across the state. With so many old and aging buildings, families are at high risk of lead exposure. In places as different as Philadelphia, Bellefonte and Rockview Prison, residents are likely exposed to high levels of lead. Lead is a known neurotoxin that damages individuals, families and whole communities for generations. Poor and minority communities are at particular risk. Peter fully supports bills and budgets that will take this issue on fully for the next generation.
4. WASTEWATER: Old and aging wastewater systems discharge billions of gallons of raw sewage into Pennsylvania’s surface waters each year. The sizeable majority of the Commonwealth’s systems are over 70 years old. Like our drinking water infrastructure, many pipes are over 100 years old. But with so many rural households, we see that the 1+ million homes in PA served by on-lot septic systems fail at nearly 20%. The ASCE recommends that we budget over the next 10 years to repair existing systems, upgrade our existing systems, control Combined Sewer Overflows, address illicit Sanitary Sewer Overflows, and construct new or expand existing systems to meet increasing demands.
5. BROADBAND: There is a serious lack of broadband service in rural Pennsylvania. Across the 171st and all across the state, we see the divide between the haves and have not created by a lack of investment in rural communities. This situation has led to a lack of market access, difficulties in completing online schooling requirements and access to specialized healthcare. It also accelerates long-term rural depopulation as young people look elsewhere for places to live, work and play. As Sasha Meinrath, Director of Penn State’s X Lab told Peter on a panel discussion on the topic, “It is very difficult to be a full member of modern society if you don’t have access to broadband.” He conservatively estimates that families are losing $1,000 per year in Pennsylvania because of a lack of broadband. Peter will support investment by the state in broadband to maintain vibrant rural life and expanded services.
Peter’s experience in government and at Penn State means he’s ready on Day #1 to get to work for you on things that matter.
During his time in local and regional government and at Penn State, he has worked to guarantee tax dollars went into excellent public infrastructure and played a key role in high-profile projects. While he served as vice-chair and chair of the Ferguson Township Board, the Board:
Improved rural and urban roads, signals, and bike paths;
Invested in and maintained diverse parks for people of all ages, abilities and interests whether they wanted to play soccer or lacrosse or enjoy a peaceful walk in pollinator-rich songbird habitat;
Drafted and passed policy to protect source water and protect property from flooding;
Cooperated with other municipalities, the Centre Region Transportation Authority, the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization, University Area Joint Authority, State College Borough Water Authority as well as non-profits to provide high-quality services.
Peter’s work has touched significant programs and projects in the 171st District and beyond. He has served on the Centre Region Council of Governments’ (COG) Public Services and Environment Committee, COG Facilities Committee, and the Spring Creek Watershed Commission. He continues to serve on a voluntary basis as Chair of a regional intergovernmental Solar Power Purchase Agreement Working Group and as the Vice-Chair for the technical advisory group for a regional Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. Projects he has played a role in have included improvements on I-80, the Potters Gap work on Route 322, the University Area Joint Authority’s solar and battery projects and beneficial reuse wastewater facility, Penn State’s 70 MW solar power project, and more.