FILE - PA Eugene DePasquale

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale speaks Nov. 13, 2019, during a news conference on climate change.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report Wednesday arguing that the state has failed to properly reckon with the effects of climate change and calling for leaders to take a more active role in preventing climate-related calamities.

In a report and news release stemming from a series of informational events that DePasquale held this year, the congressional candidate laid out what he described as the financial impacts of failing to face climate change head on.

“My team and I documented at least $261 million in climate-related costs to Pennsylvania in 2018 alone in this report,” DePasquale said in the news release. “Half of that amount, $125.7 million, was in infrastructure damage statewide caused by record-breaking floods and landslides.”

DePasquale relied upon the work of the U.S. Global Change Research Program to make the case that human activity is causing the negative climate effects seen in Pennsylvania. He noted that the 13 federal agencies that make up the program put out a report last year detailing how flooding and extreme heat can wreak havoc on society.

“What concerns me most are the potential impacts that we can’t yet see, driving new costs that will increasingly strain state and municipal budgets.” DePasquale said. “It’s difficult for most people to fathom the magnitude of the problems that lie ahead – which only makes the planning process even more challenging.”

DePasquale’s recommendations include beefing up the state’s existing agencies that work to combat climate change, a public awareness campaign to educate Pennsylvania residents on the topic, and offering incentives to those who use electric vehicles, among other steps.

The work of the auditor general, who must leave his post after the next election because of term limits and he is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, drew criticism both from the left and the right after its release Wednesday.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Republican chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, suggested that DePasquale’s work was a public relations stunt to gain awareness for his congressional campaign using taxpayer dollars.

“There was no actual auditing completed in this report,” Metcalfe said in a news release. “It all amounts to partisan pandering for the governor’s delusional climate change policy proposals. … Other than poorly peddling the same unsettled Chicken Little fear-mongering regarding ‘man-made’ climate change, the only remotely tangible information that can be gleaned from the auditor general’s special report is his intentionally unconcealed ambitions for higher political office.”

Metcalfe has been at odds with the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in recent months over the governor’s proposal to have the Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

DePasquale also faced criticism from the Better Path Coalition, an advocacy organization that aims to protect Pennsylvanians from what it sees as the negligence of the shale oil industry. That group issued a news release taking issue with the auditor general’s support of Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania initiative, which would use the proceeds of a severance tax on natural gas to pay for $4.5 billion in infrastructure improvements.

“This report does a disservice to the public by suggesting that addressing emissions from consumption of natural gas is sufficient. Pennsylvania is the 2nd largest gas producing state in the nation and is responsible for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” the coalition said in the news release. “Production of natural gas must be addressed and not simply by regulating methane emissions, but by eliminating them. The report fails to recognize that.”

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.