Pennsylvania Republicans are denouncing the state Environmental Quality Board’s effort to join a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without a full review by the General Assembly, a move they say will cause drastic energy price increases and job losses.
Republicans in the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration have battled for years over the RGGI – an initiative involving 10 New England and Mid-Atlantic states that sets a cap on carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants.
The RGGI would require the state’s 58 fossil fuel-burning plants to purchase credits at auction for each ton of carbon released into the atmosphere, and it was approved by the Environmental Quality Board over the summer. Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently gave his approval for the move, but Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reference Bureau rejected a request to publicize the RGGI regulation.
The bureau cited state law that gives the General Assembly time to disapprove a regulation. The state Senate passed a disapproval resolution in late October, and the bureau wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to the Department of Environmental Protection that the House has until mid-January to do the same.
“We will hold the rule-making for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin until the House review period expires,” the letter read, according to the Capital-Star.
“Once again, Governor Wolf and his administration have apparently taken the law into their own hands. Luckily, the Legislative Reference Bureau explained the law to them,” Rep. Lee James, R-Venango, said in a statement. “The House will be taking action on a disapproval resolution which already passed the Senate.”
House Republicans penned a letter to Shapiro in mid-October outlining their objections to the RGGI, citing public polling that showed 60% of Pennsylvanians oppose the initiative, as well as unpredictable rate increases associated with joining the initiative.
“DEP has claimed that the carbon dioxide allowance rate would remain low and would actually decrease by 2030, but the opposite has been true,” the letter read. “The most recent period from June 2 to September 8 of this year showed an increase in the allowance rate of more than 16 percent. As a whole, DEP has underestimated the average allowance increase by 187 percent. DEP’s clear failure to forecast rate increases calls into question the total cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers and ratepayers.”
James also cited a June 25 report from StateImpact Pennsylvania that showed that joining RGGI will cost customers $2 billion over nine years, or nearly $400 more per month. He also pointed to research from Pittsburgh Works Together, a labor and business collaboration group, that shows Pennsylvania residents pay $9.81 per kilowatt hour, while the cost in RGGI state Massachusetts is nearly double at $18.40 per kilowatt hour.
“All of the RGGI states have experienced job losses and increased cost of living, while failing to significantly reduce CO2 emissions or impacting climate trends. That theme would remain the same in the commonwealth,” James said. “According to the CO2 Coalition’s July report titled ‘Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Relies on Faulty Data,’ 22,000 jobs could be eliminated, resulting in nearly $282 million in lost income and $7.7 billion in total economic loss.”
House Republican spokesman Jason Gottesman told the Capital-Star he expects a vote on a resolution to disapprove the RGGI during the week of Dec. 13.
The measure would then head to Wolf, who can veto the resolution. The General Assembly would need two-thirds of members in each chamber to override the veto, which has never happened during Wolf’s tenure.
Rob Alternburg, analyst for the advocacy group PennFuture, told the Capital-Star he believes the dispute will eventually result in litigation.
“We know this RGGI rule is going to end up in court one way or another,” he said.