PA asserts public comment and General Assembly into greenhouse initiative

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 6/23/21

PENNSYLVANIA — In Gov. Tom Wolf’s weekly newsletter, there was an article, dated June 14, mentioning Pennsylvania’s gradual steps toward participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas …

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PA asserts public comment and General Assembly into greenhouse initiative

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PENNSYLVANIA — In Gov. Tom Wolf’s weekly newsletter, there was an article, dated June 14, mentioning Pennsylvania’s gradual steps toward participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). On that same day came the passage of Senate Bill 119.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Pittman of District 41, the bill passed in a 35-15 vote. Six Democrats joined alongside Republicans to support it.

Senate Bill 119 would require the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a public comment process and go through the General Assembly before there are any measures made to limit carbon dioxide emissions by imposing a revenue-generating tax or fee on carbon dioxide emissions.

What is the RGGI?

The RGGI is a collaborative effort between 11 states in the Northeastern United States to cap and reduce power sector CO2 emissions.

According to the DEP, the initiative would reduce pollution from carbon emissions by 188 million tons by 2030. 

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic Region to not have already joined the RGGI.

According to Charlie Lyons, co-founder of public affairs firm Shelly Lyons, the RGGI would have great economic and environmental impact to the region. “Because these power plants have to purchase these allowances to allow them to produce or emit carbon pollution, that generates dollars,” he said. The cash made from these allowances can go toward funding energy-efficient projects in homes and businesses, as well as adding jobs to the local economy.  “Nationally and locally, that’s where the jobs are being created,” said Lyons.

Thoughts on the bill

Critics of the bill have lambasted it as an attempt to prevent Pennsylvania from joining the RGGI. According to Lyons, its yet another barricade on the path to implementing it.

“It’s definitively meant to be a roadblock, not just to RGGI but the way the bill’s written any similar action that the DEP would want to take to limit carbon, it would create a roadblock for that as well,” said Lyons. 

Supporters of the bill like Tom Shepstone of Shepstone Management claim the passage of the bill will make things more democratic. 

“There should be a legislative committee that... evaluates it from the standpoint of all Pennsylvanians,” said Shepstone. 

According to Shepstone, there are a few things that set the Keystone State apart from the other states on the list. Unlike the other areas, Pennsylvania is a “net energy exporter” and one of the nation’s foremost ones.

The bill’s future remains up in the air. There were similar bills introduced in Pennsylvania’s 2019-20 legislative session that were ultimately vetoed by Wolf. However, due to the margin of votes in SB 119’s favor, there is still a chance to override the veto in a 2/3 majority vote.

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