By: Don Shaw email: don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com (570) 543-2961

Bipartisan group of PA House members urge Governor to withdraw Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Bipartisan group of PA House members urge Governor to withdraw Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Harrisburg, PA

A bipartisan group of 58 Pennsylvania House of Representatives members signed a letter urging Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to suspend Pennsylvania’s regulatory efforts to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“Much has changed since Gov. Wolf’s RGGI Executive Order,” said Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Armstrong/Clarion/Forest). “A pandemic has swept the globe, crushing the world’s and Pennsylvania’s economy. Pennsylvania needs to focus on preserving the jobs we have, like those held by the thousands of workers and families who rely on electric generation plants in Armstrong and Indiana counties. Now is not the time to allow policies to advance, like RGGI, that threaten to destroy those jobs and communities.”

Wolf’s RGGI Executive Order directs DEP to “[i]nclude a robust public outreach effort working with the business community, energy producers, energy suppliers, organized labor, environmental groups and others” with respect to “the development and implementation” of the RGGI regulation.

“To date, DEP has yet to meet with the plant owners or unions representing workers who will lose their jobs in the event Pennsylvania joins RGGI,” said Snyder. “When the governor promised ‘a robust public outreach,’ we all expected far more from DEP than restricting that outreach to the bare minimum required by law for the promulgation of regulations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also restricted the ability of impacted stakeholders to communicate with their elected officials. This has been especially so for individuals and organizations opposed to RGGI.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Wolf’s response to it, a large number of local and state organized labor groups, along with coal and natural gas electric plant owners, have been forced to cancel rallies, town hall meetings and other public events,” said Struzzi, “This is certainly not the time to force a job killing regulation like RGGI down the throats of those who fear for their jobs, yet are prohibited from communicating those fears due to stay-at-home orders.”

The bipartisan House letter highlighted the following factors in urging the governor to rescind the RGGI Executive Order:

• The RGGI Executive Order directs DEP to conduct a “robust public outreach” to develop and implement the RGGI regulation, not the bare statutory minimum. To date, DEP has yet to contact plant owners, labor unions and counties impacted by RGGI, and efforts by those groups to conduct public rallies and meetings have been prohibited by the pandemic.
• DEP just published the RGGI modeling data, which demonstrated the following:
     o The modeling data relies on assumptions in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, and is thus already obsolete.
     o RGGI will trigger the near immediate (and certainly premature) closure of every coal and many less-efficient gas plants in PA. In year one of RGGI, 2022, DEP modeling projects an 89% decline in coal-fired generation.
     o Modeling conclusions did not consider any of the economic fallout associated with these plant closures, which will extend beyond direct workers and plants, to include supply chain, contract jobs, school districts and local         governments.
     o Across PJM, carbon dioxide reductions will be minimal as a result of increased power production from non-RGGI states, which is inconsistent with the governor’s directive regarding “leakage.”
     o In 2030, carbon dioxide emissions in Pennsylvania will be comparable with or without Pennsylvania joining RGGI.
• The only “public outreach” from DEP to date has been through a virtual format and limited to its advisory committees (i.e., CAC and AQTAC) and, during last week’s meeting, DEP prohibited public comment. And, for next week’s AQTAC meeting, it limits public comment period to 15 minutes.
• COVID has eliminated meaningful public comment. Labor rallies have been cancelled, standing committee hearings cancelled and local town hall meetings cancelled.

The bipartisan House letter to the governor concluded that, if Wolf rescinds the RGGI order, it will “remove a significant point of disagreement between your administration and the General Assembly in the months ahead and, instead, will enable all of us to focus our time and efforts toward overcoming the devastating impacts from COVID-19 to the Pennsylvania economy.”