Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative fight continues

AP Photo Gov. Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG — State Senate Republicans are continuing their fight against Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

In a party-line vote, the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union, sent a letter to the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging its review of concerns expressed by numerous commentators, including those from organized labor leaders, business leaders and elected officials over the past year who have weighed in against the “CO2 Budget Trading Program,” proposed regulation – #7-559 (IRRC #3274).

“I am not against wind, solar, nuclear or any other energy source,” Yaw said during the committee meeting. “What I am against are half-truths or proposals which ignore the overall or the big picture. I have said this publicly in the past — in my opinion RGGI is superficial at best.”

If approved by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the regulation would enter Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

Following a comprehensive Program Review in 2017, the RGGI states implemented a new cap reduction trajectory of 30% over the period 2020 to 2030. The RGGI CO2 cap represents a regional budget for CO2 emissions from the power sector. States sell nearly all CO2 allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs.

Senator Katie Muth, D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery wrote a letter to the IRCC outlining two loopholes in the regulations.

“We know that Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide with our energy sector being the largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” Muth said.

“I’m not here to debate or suggest or support shutting down so that people lose their jobs. I’m fully supportive of a plan to move Pennsylvania on a pathway forward that is both sustainable economically and from the public and environmental standpoint. For far too long Pennsylvanians — from back to the timber era to coal now — have been left with an either/or. And the either/or is food on the table or, if you can, get a job in one of these energy sectors that have human harm and environmental harm associated with them, including worker harm. That’s been their decision. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.”

The Republicans argue the Environmental Quality Board lacks the statutory authority to join RGGI because the state Legislature has not passed legislation authorizing the state’s entry into the cap-and-trade alliance. The letter also says the RGGI allowances are actually a carbon tax that fluctuate every quarter — and that the power to levy taxes lies with the state Legislature and not a regulatory board. Yaw’s letter also argues that the modeling upon which the RGGI regulation is based is already obsolete.

In April 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection released modeling data with an RGGI allowance price of $5.65 per allowance, a number that has increased 32% TO $7.41. Modeling upon which the decision is being made didn’t assume the RGGI allowance reaching $7 until 2025. Republicans have also said the state has decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 38% without being part of RGGI.

“Pennsylvania has significantly reduced CO2 emissions without programs like RGGI,” Yaw said. “And finally, the economic and fiscal risk for Pennsylvania to join RGGI are very real.”


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