Last month, after news about possible environmental and public health threats posed by the Erie Coke Corporation plant, I requested that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conduct a public health assessment to determine if emissions from the Erie Coke Corp.’s coke-making facility has or will cause harm to the health of people living near the facility. Many Erie residents believe they have suffered a wide range of health problems, ranging from headaches to cancer, due to the plant’s emissions.
Earlier this month, ATSDR notified me that it plans to work other agencies to determine what information and monitoring data exist about the type and concentration of air contaminants that may be released from the facility or present in the air of the surrounding community. ATSDR will use this information to determine if a public health assessment is feasible and, if so, what type of assessment would provide the community with the most accurate and timely information possible to respond to its concerns.
Protecting the health of those who work at the Erie Coke plant and those who reside near the plant is a top priority. I believe all citizens are entitled to a clean, healthy environment and that any serious threats to this entitlement must be addressed.
Child abuse is an unspeakable tragedy whenever it occurs. I recently wrote an op-ed in the York Daily Record, in response to an editorial about the need for additional work to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of children in Pennsylvania.
Every community struggles with the scourge of child abuse, and in my op-ed I discussed several different angles from which we can tackle this problem, from actions I believe the Congress must take to programs in local communities across Pennsylvania that are actively working to prevent child abuse.
The editorial from the York Daily Record is available here and my op-ed in reply is available here.
There are many organizations working to prevent child abuse and protect our children. One example in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and their HERO Project – an innovative educational and motivational campaign featuring radio and television ads that ask adults to step up and be a "hero" for a child whom they suspect may be a victim of sexual abuse by calling a 24-hour hotline.
I encourage you to learn more about organizations like PCAR and what you can do in your community to prevent child abuse.
One consistent theme that I have heard from Pennsylvanians in our conversations about health insurance is how confusing it can be to find the right plan. It’s challenging to understand what options are available, and it’s even harder to determine how plans compare on benefits, price, and other important criteria.
The good news is, things may have just gotten a little simpler with the launch of a new website called HealthCare.gov. This website, which was created as a result of the new health care law – the Affordable Care Act – gives Pennsylvanians, and Americans across the country, more control over our health care by providing the information necessary to make the best choices for ourselves and our families.
On HealthCare.gov, you can learn about:
- Health insurance options available to you and your family in your community. HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers across the U.S. with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool. By answering just a few simple questions, you can learn what health insurance options are available in your community, and how health plans compare on services, providers and drug benefits. Later this year, information on prices will be added – making this an even more powerful tool.
- New rights and benefits provided to Americans under the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. A timeline shows when new programs under the new law will become available between now and 2014, and information is available to help families, older adults, employers, health care providers and others understand how their health care will improve under the new law.
- Information to help you and your family prevent health problems and lead a healthier, more active life – and to assess the quality of health care provided in your area.
The website will be updated regularly, as new information about plans, benefits and consumer protections become available.
I hope that this website will be a valuable resource for you and all Pennsylvanians. I would encourage you to share it with your coworkers, friends and family who you think might be interested in it.
On Monday, I joined Governor Ed Rendell and representatives from the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol Building rotunda. At the Parents’ Rally for Education, parents and students alike spoke of the importance of maintaining adequate funding levels for school districts throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
Following statements from citizens throughout the Commonwealth, I discussed how several important federal policies impact the state budget. The Keep Our Educators Working Act, which I am cosponsoring, is as straightforward as it gets when it comes to education: by creating a fund to provide education aid to the states, it would save between 12,000 and 15,000 teaching jobs throughout Pennsylvania. Equally important, however, are extensions for FMAP funding for Medicare, unemployment insurance, and COBRA. Extended FMAP funding is necessary to ensure that the state of Pennsylvania does not suffer a large budget gap, which could result in cuts in education. Unemployment and COBRA extensions are needed not only to protect vulnerable Pennsylvanian families, but also to prevent economic recovery from being stifled, which could hurt the state’s ability to collect the revenue it needs for education and other programs. Without this funding, Pennsylvania could experience 20,000 layoffs and a threat can be posed to public safety and schools. Extending this funding has majority support in the Senate. And it has bipartisan support outside of Washington with 42 governors having signed a letter urging Congress to extend this funding, including 26 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
The message of the Parents’ Rally for Education is an important one that I will carry with me to Washington DC. I will advocate tirelessly for the passage of the Keep Our Educators Working Act, and for extensions for FMAP funding, unemployment, and COBRA. These programs are important to the citizens of the Commonwealth and vital for assisting state budgets and ensuring economic recovery.
Yesterday, I announced $487,000 of federal funding I secured for a new mixed-use, transit-oriented development near the Temple University Rail Station. I was joined by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and the two developers the City has chosen to partner with on this project, the Asociacíon Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) and Jonathan Rose Companies, as well as other community officials and representatives. The City will be working closely with its two development partners to construct a transit village that will strengthen the adjacent Ludlow/Temple University neighborhoods and serve as transit hub for eastern North Philadelphia.
The press conference was held on Ninth Street, between Berks and Norris Streets, next to the parking lot that will be the future home of the transit village. It will include 164 rental apartments, at least 44 of which will be affordable housing units, as well as community and retail space. It will also be sustainably designed with the goal of providing a healthy living environment that ensures improved indoor air quality and a reduction in water and energy use. Aside from its “green” design, it will also provide other environmental benefits, by encouraging the use of public transit that will reduce congestion on the road and dependence on cars.
The total cost of the project is just under $50 million, which represents a significant investment in the neighborhood, and it is expected to create 400 construction jobs and future permanent jobs. It was a pleasure to announce this project with Mayor Nutter as it furthers strong economic and environmental revitalization efforts in the City of Philadelphia.