The commission charged with reviewing proposed state regulations and rules today (September 1) approved a regulation that would implement the Governor’s unilateral mandate that Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), according to Senators Gene Yaw and Joe Pittman.
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 3-2 to approve Regulation 3274 Environmental Quality Board #7-559: CO2 Budget Trading Program, which would pave the way for Pennsylvania to join RGGI.
“For the first time in Pennsylvania’s history, a decision by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission has opened the door for Pennsylvania to join an interstate initiative without legislative approval,” said Senator Yaw, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee. “Today’s decision by IRRC means Pennsylvania will lose control over our energy production, economic development, energy security and environmental protection. Instead of engaging with the General Assembly, the Wolf Administration, with IRRC’s approval, will allow the decisions on these important matters to be determined by the likes of New York, New Jersey and other states who thumb their nose at Pennsylvania energy. To participate in RGGI is to ignore the positive environmental impacts that are taking place right here in Pennsylvania, which include a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions over the past two decades. Moreover, Pennsylvania will lose thousands of skilled and good paying jobs and untold millions of dollars in its tax base for CO2 emissions reductions stated to be less than 1%.”
Senator Yaw added, “For a step of this magnitude, which affects consumers, business, industry and public policy, the state legislature should have been involved in the dialogue on joining RGGI. Instead, it was a unilateral action, and sadly, one that will have dire consequences.”
“My Senatorial District will be truly devastated by the carbon tax that will be imposed by RGGI, so I am truly disappointed that the IRRC approved this regulation,” said Senator Pittman, Vice Chairman of Environmental Resources & Energy Committee. “At least IRRC took the time to hear from legislators, business leaders and municipal officials before they voted. This is certainly different from the stance taken by the Administration. Neither the Governor nor any member of his Administration even bothered to come to my district over the past 22 months to talk about RGGI and how working families would benefit from the closure of power plants and the elimination of jobs.”
Speaking at Wednesday’s IRRC meeting in Harrisburg, Senator Pittman called the proposed rule “personal and emotional,” since it would have a direct negative impact on his constituents, the local economy, and essential revenues for school districts. He said the broad scope of RGGI is well beyond the authority of the Department of Environmental Protection to unilaterally implement without approval of the General Assembly.
“Your disapproval of this regulation simply requires the department and the administration to truly come back to the table, truly engage and explain how the costs and benefits of this do bear out,” Senator Pittman said. “From where I sit as an elected member of the Pennsylvania Senate, I can assure you I do not see a way to benefit versus the enormous costs that the constituents I represent will bear. I encourage your disapproval.”
On October 3, 2019, Governor Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join RGGI — a collaboration of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia) set a cap on total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states.
To comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit. Pennsylvania would be the only state in the compact with a substantial number of coal or natural gas power energy production facility and the only one to join the compact without legislative approval.
Lawmakers have strenuously opposed the Governor’s edict since the beginning, citing that it overstepped the Administration’s powers by usurping the legislature’s exclusive powers to impose taxes and that the carbon tax would devastate local economies cost thousands of jobs