The Senate Republican Caucus has put the Governor on notice of their intention to block all nominations to the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) until he pulls his unilateral decision to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and work with the Legislature, according to Senator Joe Pittman, who has spearheaded efforts of Legislative involvement in RGGI.
“We are available to engage further on this issue if you so choose; however, until we can reach any agreement with your removal of Pennsylvania from RGGI and submit the compact for deliberation through the General Assembly, we will not be confirming any PUC nominees,” reads the letter signed by all 27 Senate Republicans and Independent John Yudichak of the 14th District.
“We have made it clear over the past 19 months that this is about the balance of powers in Pennsylvania,” said Senator Pittman. “One of the key components of RGGI is a tax on carbon emissions. That in and of itself would destroy thousands of family-sustaining jobs across the Commonwealth. Beyond that, the power to tax is a function of the legislative branch, not the executive branch. It is dangerous precedent to tolerate the Governor unilaterally imposing a tax. This moratorium on confirmation of PUC nominees is a reminder to the Governor that Pennsylvania has three distinct and co-equal branches of government.”
On October 3, 2019, Governor Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Resources (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. In order to comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit.
If Pennsylvania joins RGGI, it would be the only major energy producing state in the compact and the resulting carbon tax on employers engaged in electric generation would devastate that industry and cost thousands of jobs.
Since the Governor’s edict, three DEP advisory boards have rejected the proposal. Most recently (February 16) the Independent Regulatory Review Commission called for a one-year moratorium on its implementation and questioned the Governor’s unilateral decision to join the compact without legislative approval.
In addition, the Legislature approved House Bill 2025 in September 2020, which would have created the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act; clarified that the Administration does not have the authority to unilaterally join RGGI; and, prohibited the DEP from joining RGGI without Legislative approval.
The Governor retained his unilateral power by vetoing the bill on September 24, 2020.
“Three DEP advisory panels have rejected the proposal, yet the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) still proceeded with developing regulations associated with RGGI. It is our understanding that the EQB plans to advance these regulations this summer, despite a clear constitutional requirement for involvement by the General Assembly,” the Senators wrote in their letter. “In lieu of this subversion of the constitutional process, and short of arguing this in a judicial setting, we are presented with very few options to reinstitute proper checks and balances in this particular situation. Therefore, we will be exercising our legislative authority to reject all future PUC nominees until you withdraw your executive order related to Pennsylvania’s inclusion in RGGI.”
A copy of the Senators’ letter is available at: https://www.pasenategop.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/PUC-letter-042121.pdf
Contact: Jeremy Dias firstname.lastname@example.org