HARRISBURG, PA — Wayne and Pike counties’ own representative Joe Adams joined fellow Republicans recently when they called for letting the interstate greenhouse gas initiative go without …
HARRISBURG, PA — Wayne and Pike counties’ own representative Joe Adams joined fellow Republicans recently when they called for letting the interstate greenhouse gas initiative go without a fight.
Through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a dozen East Coast states have agreed to collectively reduce carbon emissions. The program’s website says RGGI states have since the program’s inception reduced their emissions by more than 50 percent and raised nearly $6 billion.
Once participating states agree on a greenhouse gas limit to impose on power plants, those plants must purchase “emission allowances” to continue operating. Over time, the cap on emissions declines so that the states’ carbon footprint decreases in a “planned and predictable way.”
Power plants purchase their allowances at quarterly auctions, which in 2021 raked in about $926 million for participating states. But since a 2022 injunction from Commonwealth Court, Pennsylvania has been blocked from participating in these auctions.
Recently, Commonwealth Court went a step further and ruled that former Gov. Tom Wolf had overstepped his authority by using an executive order to join RGGI in 2019. Only state lawmakers are allowed to levy taxes, and Commonwealth Court decided that Wolf’s executive order to join the initiative unlawfully bypassed the legislature to impose a tax on Pennsylvania residents.
Gov. Josh Shapiro (D), Wolf’s successor, has limited time to appeal this decision to the PA Supreme Court. House Republicans are urging him not to. At a press conference last week, they called RGGI a “Green New Deal energy tax which will kill jobs, threaten our energy independence and damage our economy.”
“Pennsylvania’s workers have lost hundreds of thousands of man hours and more than $7 billion in private investment since Gov. Wolf’s executive order on RGGI,”said Rep. Eric Nelson of Westmoreland County and Republican chair of the house gas and oil caucus. “Pennsylvania is bleeding economic growth and energy production to nearby states while our families and businesses pay more to turn on their lights. We need to leave the RGGI discussion behind us and go back to work on policies that grow our economy, increase jobs and benefit Pennsylvania families.”
Flanking Nelson at this press conference, Wayne and Susquehanna counties’ Rep. Jonathan Fritz has been a vocal opponent of RGGI for years. He decried the program on the house floor in late 2021.
“It adds costs to Pennsylvanians’ energy bills, that fact alone is reason enough to oppose RGGI,” he said. He added that it makes Pennsylvania “more unwelcoming and more adversarial to our current businesses.”
Others are calling on Shapiro to make the opposite decision and fight for RGGI. In a recent letter to the editor published in the River Reporter, Clean Power PA wrote: “The urgency to take action on climate change and a transitioning energy economy in the commonwealth is real. Some members of the state legislature have spent years and considerable taxpayer dollars obstructing RGGI while doing nothing to aid their own constituents, who are already dealing with energy transition. And they have taken no steps to position Pennsylvania as a leader in the energy economy of the future and the jobs and community economic investment opportunities that it brings with it. That’s why implementing RGGI in Pennsylvania is so important.”
At press time, it remains unclear how Shapiro will respond to the Commonwealth Court decision. Prior to the ruling, state media had already been reporting Shapiro’s equivocality to RGGI.
While campaigning for governor in 2022, Shapiro was outspoken in his promise to cut down on Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions, but he didn’t promise to support RGGI. He voiced some concerns about the affect it would have on jobs and energy prices.
After his election, Shapiro convened a working group of organized labor, energy industry, environmental protection, and consumer advocacy interests to discuss Pennsylvania’s energy future. The group agreed that a cap-and-invest program is “both necessary and inevitable.” However, the group did not say outright that RGGI was the right program for Pennsylvania to achieve its carbon reduction goals.
The clock is ticking for Shapiro to appeal. Check back with www.riverreporter.com for updates on the governor’s decision.
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