By SEN. JOHN YUDICHAK

Special to The TIMES NEWS

There is a movement sweeping the nation, a move to tap into alternative energy sources in an effort to boost the economy, grow solid jobs, improve the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

As a concerned citizen and legislator, I believe that investing in clean energy is an innovative and safe way to provide energy to homes and businesses while creating opportunities for economic growth in Pennsylvania. It is imperative that clean energy be a top priority.

While Pennsylvania is known for its dedication to the environment and green industry initiatives, we also have the opportunity to boost the state as a clean energy leader. Making investments in clean energy and green jobs is a smart way to stimulate our economy and reduce our unemployment rate.

As the Democratic Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, it is my duty to ensure that quality legislation regarding environmental and energy issues is put to a full Senate vote.

There will be a number of clean energy legislative initiatives that come before the committee this session. Currently, I am working on a plan to create clean energy jobs and enhance alternative energy technologies. I have been a long time advocate for alternative energy development in Pennsylvania. While in the House of Representatives, I supported clean energy initiatives.

In the Senate, my Democratic colleagues and I are working on some key legislative initiatives that will cement clean energy in Pennsylvania. We remain committed to developing our state's status as a leader in energy efficiency.

Right here in our area, the Hazleton campus of Penn State University is on the cutting edge of clean energy innovation. The Hazleton campus started an engineering program last year, and committed to alternative energy and power generation. In addition to their engineering courses, students will also take in-depth classes on converting solar, wind and geothermal power to electricity.

This program gives our engineering students a head start on making an impact in the clean energy industry. It is programs like this that will boost Pennsylvania's standing as a clean energy leader in the U.S.

Pennsylvania has always been at the forefront of the clean energy industry. Initiatives like the Alternative and Clean Energy Program provides financial assistance to clean energy projects statewide. I will continue to boost those programs that enhance Pennsylvania's clean energy efforts and create lasting jobs.

At the same time, I will continue my support for the traditional energy sources that we have in northeastern Pennsylvania. We must not forget the great work being done by those facilities that are converting waste coal into alternative energy and using the ash to reclaim abandoned mine lands. Thousands of acres of land have been reclaimed. I am also excited about the proposals for coal gasification and liquefaction. These types of projects create jobs and find new uses for anthracite coal.

As the nation rapidly turns to alternative sources of energy, we must ensure that Pennsylvania can effectively compete with other states and bring quality jobs to the Commonwealth through our clean energy initiatives.