State Sen. Gene Yaw (PA-23), Chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, issued the following statement criticizing the Environmental Quality Board’s (EQB) vote to approve Governor Wolf’s plan for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a consortium of states that impose a carbon tax on electricity production and require fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances.
“RGGI is a superficial stab at addressing climate change. The proposal would work fine if we are going to put a bubble over Pennsylvania, but we are not. Pennsylvania has lowered its emissions to a greater extent than what the RGGI states have actually done – and we have done it on our own. According the PJM, difference in the savings with RGGI verses without RGGI is .0089%. We are driving employers out of Pennsylvania for minimal benefits to the environment. Additionally, we will see electric rate increases of 12% to 18%.”
“Under RGGI, we are transferring part of our economy and part of our environmental protections to nine or 10 other states. I am not in favor of transferring anything. We can do things better on our own. I have more faith in Pennsylvanians doing things the right way and protecting the environment than what other states say we should do.
“Energy will not be cheap and will not come from Pennsylvania. In fact, estimates show that 86% of the energy will not be coming from RGGI states. What’s the benefit to Pennsylvania? The benefit to Pennsylvania is nothing. All we have done is create jobs in West Virginia and Ohio. The bottom line is that this is going to cost thousands of Pennsylvania jobs. Whether boilermakers, construction trades or people who work in power plants, these jobs are not going to be replaced with jobs building windmills or solar panels.
“We need a diverse energy portfolio. We need to look at the big picture. RGGI does not look at the big picture but rather targets a small part of energy production by targeting coal-fired plants. We need to have a bigger plan that considers all aspects of energy production including manufacturing, storage and recycling and disposal.”
Pennsylvania would be the only state in the compact with a substantial amount of coal or natural gas resources and, as a result, electric generation plants fueled by those resources. Pennsylvania also would be the only state to join RGGI without legislative approval.
The EQB is a 20-member independent board that considers the Department of Environmental Protection’s regulations. It is chaired by the DEP Secretary. The board voted 15-4 to send the proposed regulations to the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRCC) for consideration. In February, IRRC called for a one-year moratorium on Governor Wolf’s RGGI implementation and questioned the Governor’s unilateral decision to join the compact without the sign-off from the legislature.
On October 3, 2019, Governor Wolf directed DEP to join RGGI in October 2019. Since then, three panels (the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, the Citizens Advisory Council, and the Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee) all have declined to support the rulemaking. Despite these concerns and those raised by Pennsylvania employers and the General Assembly, the Wolf Administration continues to press forward with the plan.
RGGI is a collaboration of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The states, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and, more recently, New Jersey 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, which changes every calendar quarter through auctions conducted by RGGI, Inc. In effect, those named states would dictate significant requirements affecting Pennsylvania’s economy and environment.