State Auditor General: Climate Change Could Be Costing PA Hundreds of Millions

Posted by Katie Meyer | WITF on

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is attempting to quantify what climate change will cost Pennsylvania.

At the center of the Democrat’s latest report is a stat from the National Institute of Building Sciences: every dollar spent preventing natural disaster damage saves six dollars in recovery costs.

He said last year, his office found at least $261 million in statewide costs related to ​severe weather events that he said are connected to climate change. Almost half of the costs involve infrastructure problems.​

“Pennsylvanians often assume that federal disaster relief will help with recovery from flooding,” he said. “But because climate change brings about more intense, localized storms, often the damage is not widespread enough to qualify for that federal funding.”

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale appears on Smart Talk September 5, 2019.
Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Outgoing Auditor General Eugene DePasquale discussing one of the many audits he has conducted over the past seven years.

Flooding isn’t the only cost driver when it comes to infrastructure. DePasquale also warned of landslides and degradation of old sewer systems, among other things. And he said he’s concerned about public health—for instance, increased rates of asthma.

Ultimately, he said, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a good enough comprehensive plan to address practical issues related to climate change, or to mitigate its own role in the problem.

“Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth-largest contributor of greenhouse gases,” he said. “We can and must do better.”

In a press conference announcing the report, DePasquale pointed to Governor Tom Wolf’s Restore PA plan as a way to get the money needed to boost infrastructure.

The governor wants to borrow $4.5 billion to make improvements across the state, and use the money from a proposed ​severance tax on the natural gas industry to pay the debt back over 20 years or so.

GOP leaders have roundly rejected the proposal, and strongly oppose taxing gas companies.

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