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HARRISBURG, PA-It was a green day Wednesday in Pennsylvania with two major environmental announcements made by Gov. Edward Rendell and Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The governor revealed ideas to help the state reduce energy usage in government buildings, stimulate renewable energy use and cut costs for taxpayers. Ravenstahl issued a statement declaring that his city will set up a $100,000 trust fund for green projects.

The state plan would mean the state would purchase 50% of all electricity from green power sources by 2010. This is a 20% increase over the current plan, which makes Pennsylvania the largest state purchaser of green power in the country. The governor also wants to implement turning off unnecessary equipment during peak periods, convert buildings to have sensor lighting and use more compact florescent lights.

“The governor believes clean, renewable energy can improve the environment and possibly the economy. Pennsylvania is one of the biggest carbon dioxide creators in the country,” Michael Smith, communications director for the Department of Environmental Protection, tells GlobeSt.com. “Now some of the largest renewable energy companies call Pennsylvania home, and have created about 1,500 jobs.” The governor’s plan will also hit the vehicular end of the state by reducing fuel usage by 5% or 367,000 gallons annually, reducing the state vehicle fleet and by buying smaller government vehicles.

“Rising energy prices affect every customer, including state government,” Gov. Rendell said in a prepared statement. “We need to make immediate, sweeping adjustments to the way state government operates to counter escalating gas prices and rising energy prices. The steps I am announcing today will reduce our environmental impact by using less energy, and helping to grow our renewable energy sector by purchasing more clean, renewable energy.”

Rendall’s started a green plan in 2004, and the energy reduction plan in 2006. “When the governor announced his original energy and cost reduction plan 16 months ago, gas was $2.25, now gas is at $4 in Pennsylvania. We’re also seeing substantial increases in the prices of coal and natural gas. It’s possible we’re going to see double-digit increases in energy costs in the next two years,” says Smith. “High energy bills are translating in high taxes for taxpayers.”

Rendell also brought up four bills currently awaiting decisions by the General Assembly. House Bill 2201 will require utilities to provide service to customers at the lowest reasonable rate. Special Session House Bill 1 will provide funding for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. House Bill 2200 will help consumers conserve energy and save on energy bills. Finally, House Bill 1202 will require nearly one billion gallons of biofuel to be produced and consumed in the commonwealth, which is estimated to equal what will be imported from the Persian Gulf by 2017.

“The governor wants to reduce the state’s dependency on foreign oil,” Smith says. “The state spends $30 billion on foreign fuels now. The governor believes this jeopardizes national security and the economy. He wants to develop and encourage biofuels.”

Rendell’s 2004 energy reduction plan reduced the state department’s energy consumption by 10% annually. The governor said he hopes to add another 10% of savings onto that plan by 2010. “Cutting energy consumption by 20% in just eight years is a very ambitious goal, but one that we can achieve by implementing these initiatives,” Gov. Rendell said.

In Pittsburgh, mayor Ravenstahl revealed the expansion of his city’s green efforts by creating a $100,000 trust fund that will go towards greening the Steel City. With the money the mayor’s office hopes to hire a sustainability coordinator, energy and utilities manager and launch a green council to oversee Pittsburgh’s five-year greening plan.

“Though we’ve already made great strides in reducing our city’s carbon footprint, the creation of this green fund demonstrates how serious city government is about being green,” Ravenstahl said in a prepared statement. “Whether it’s greening dozens of vacant lots, running diesel engines with clean-burning bio-diesel, or retrofitting traffic lights to make them more energy efficient, we have the momentum it takes to take this city to the next level of green.”

Representatives from each of the city’s departments and a member from City Council will make up the Green Council. Ravenstahl’s office did not return GlobeSt.com calls by deadline Wednesday.

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