Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered his administration to start working on regulations to bring Pennsylvania into a nine-state consortium of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that sets a price and limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
But the Republican-controlled Legislature is saying not so fast, the decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initative isn’t up to the governor alone.
“I am disappointed but not surprised by the governor’s actions on RGGI,” said state Rep. Marty Causer, R-Turtlepoint. “Governing through executive action, rather than talking with the duly elected members of the General Assembly and working to build consensus, has become his regular practice. It’s not appropriate and doesn’t reflect in any way the constitutional separation of powers.”
The House Republican leadership, led by Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Pittsburgh, released a statement about Wolf’s executive order.
“The regulation of carbon dioxide presents significant impacts on our economy, the environment and on the bottom line for Pennsylvania families,” the statement read.
“The people of our Commonwealth, as represented and heard through the General Assembly, have the absolute right to review, approve or disapprove any plan that has such far reaching implications. This move calls for another new energy fee on Pennsylvanians. Taxpayers will pay more every time they flip a switch, make breakfast or charge their phone.”
Causer echoed the comments.
“I have serious concerns about Pennsylvania taking part in RGGI, as I believe it will hinder competition and job growth, especially in energy-producing areas of the state like ours,” Causer said. “And ultimately, it will leave already-struggling Pennsylvanians paying significantly higher energy costs without any real benefit.”
The Republican leadership in the Senate had similar concerns about the legislature being involved in the process.
A joint statement released by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, and Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, indicated the importance of energy production in the state.
“Throughout the last 10 years we have supported many initiatives that have resulted in Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas reductions that eclipse the CO2 reductions in RGGI states. As a net-exporter of electricity, we know that energy production is a vital part of our state’s economy,” the statement indicated.
“Moving forward to the next chapter of greenhouse gas reductions must be done in a manner that adheres to the four energy principles of Senate Republicans: 1) Maintain the diversity of PA’s current energy portfolio and the jobs it sustains; 2) Protect the interests of PA consumers by keeping energy rates affordable and low; 3) Require the current members of RGGI to utilize all aspects of PA’s robust energy portfolio; and 4) Implement any carbon reduction plan in PA through an appropriate legal manner.”
The statement continued, “We expect that the legislature will have the opportunity to engage in this process, to make sure that any change in energy policy ensures a balance between safeguarding the environment, preserving energy jobs and protecting ratepayers.”
The House Republicans were more critical of Wolf’s action.
“Our state is not an autocracy, and one-sided decisions as significant as this leave out the important voices of Pennsylvania workers, communities and families whose livelihood is built upon important sectors of our energy economy,” the House Republicans’ statement read. “Pennsylvania’s energy sector is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% in recent years according to some estimates, and the industry is doing this without burdensome regulations.”
According to the Associated Press, Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and its third-biggest electric power state.
At almost 40%, Pennsylvania’s energy sector is its largest emitter of carbon dioxide, according to government figures. Under the cap-and-trade program, its dozens of power plants fueled by coal, oil and natural gas could be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars annually that the state could then spend on clean energy efforts, the AP reported
Pennsylvania would be, by far, the biggest emissions state in the consortium. It emits about 92 million tons a year, compared with the consortium’s 2019 cap of 80.2 million tons.
In consortium states, owners of power plants fueled by coal, oil or natural gas with a capacity of 25 megawatts must buy a credit for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The earliest Pennsylvania could reasonably join and see the program take effect is 2021.