Bill passes PA House authorizing new environmentally sustainable, water-based cremation

HARRISBURG, May 2 – By a strong bipartisan vote of 138-63, the PA House passed a bill (H.B. 1172) that would allow Pennsylvania-based funeral homes to provide water-based cremation.

The bill, introduced by state Reps. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, and Chris Rabb, D-Phila., would amend current state law to expand the definition of cremation to include the process known as alkaline hydrolysis – better known as aquamation.

“Cremation is typically seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to burial, but that is not necessarily the case,” Rabb said. “In order to cremate a human body by flame, as is the current method, heat in excess of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit is necessary. Creating that amount of heat takes immense energy and emits as much carbon dioxide as a 1,000-mile trip by car.”

Alkaline hydrolysis is a method of cremation that uses an alkaline solution and a pressurized steel chamber to break the body down to its bare minimum. The combination of the alkaline solution, pressure, and heat creates ash similar to flame cremation.

“When people think that cremation offers a greener end of life than a full burial does, it’s important to remember that the temperatures required in traditional cremations create large energy bills and excess pollution. This legislation aims to provide Pennsylvanians with interment choices that are not only kinder but also environmentally sustainable compared to existing options,” Daley said. “Complex problems require complex solutions, and it is important to keep up with these advancements in end-of-life care.”

Video of Rabb speaking on the bill on the House floor can be found here.

The bill will now head to the PA Senate, where it will await a vote.