We all believe that promises made should correlate to promises kept, especially when those promises are made by government leaders.
When it comes to Pennsylvania’s energy policy and our newest governor, however, promises made have not been kept — at least, not yet.
One hundred-some days ago, I joined the bipartisan applause for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s inaugural pledge that Pennsylvania would now be “open for business,” pursuing new investment opportunities and working to be competitive with other states.
Instead of delivering on these promises, however, the first four months of Gov. Shapiro’s tenure have seen the closure of the Homer City Power Plant and the cancellation of Bechtel’s “Renovo-Project” in Clinton County. Both communities and many Pennsylvania workers would have benefitted from these projects. They are understandably asking, “Why?”
Why is our state closing critical power generation and losing hundreds of thousands in man-hours of work while Ohio is building new power plants and announcing billions in new investment? The answer is RGGI, the Regional Green House Gas Initiative, an executive order that would levy a carbon tax on two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s energy generators. Former Gov. Tom Wolf mandated this job-killing, energy-price-increasing policy without approval of the legislature; Gov. Shapiro needs to confront this issue.
Zero power plants have been built in the Keystone State since Wolf unilaterally entered Pennsylvania into RGGI, despite all sides acknowledging that Pennsylvania has continued to reduce carbon emissions, even as free market competition grew our state into one of the country’s largest producers and exporters of energy.
In contrast, neighboring Ohio — which has not entered RGGI — has built or announced a number of new power plants during the same period, each bringing around $1 billion of private investment, huge property tax revenue increases for local schools, and jobs for residents.
As a candidate for the highest office in Pennsylvania, Shapiro campaigned with equivocation and even skepticism on the issue of RGGI — but now his proposed budget relies on $600 million from new RGGI taxes. At best, many energy workers are calling this dual move riding the fence, while families who have lost jobs grumble about the old “bait and switch.”
What Shapiro has thus far not done effectively is balance pressure from wealthy environmentalist supporters with his responsibility to ensure reliable, affordable power for employers and citizens. February’s written warning about PJM’s grid reliability from premature closings of thermal generators underscores the larger consequence of this policy.
Indeed, the May 17 national announcement by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. echoes the same concerns. NERC’s report states that the region “could face energy shortfalls during periods of extreme heat this summer.”
Also, with global energy supplies and prices continuing to be affected by the ongoing Russian conflict in Ukraine, it is imperative that we do what we can here to help stabilize the energy market and keep energy prices low.
So, why does Shapiro remain silent on RGGI?
One could argue that he is waiting for the Commonwealth Court to do the heavy lifting. That he is waiting for the court to determine, as part of ongoing litigation, if RGGI by executive order is unconstitutional.
But this political avoidance has costs. While Shapiro waits, more than 600 local boilermakers are forced to work out of state, and their leadership has received a call for 350 more members to cover an extended project in West Virginia. Some will never return.
As a farmer, even I know that the wind blows in from the west to the east. We are losing livelihoods to Ohio’s energy industry. The court decision will soon be announced; when those judges confirm that RGGI is unconstitutional, Shapiro can wait no more. He will have 30 days to accept or appeal the decision and decide once and for all where he stands regarding RGGI, affordable home-grown energy, and Pennsylvania workers.
I still support Shapiro’s commitment to a bipartisan effort to attract new businesses and believe that we can achieve this shared goal. But doing so will require that the governor take action to keep his promises and help deliver a competitive and prosperous Pennsylvania.
(State Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland County, represents the 57th Legislative District. This article was originally published by RealClearPennsylvania.)