House moves bill to keep Pa. out of RGGI without legislative approval

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A Pennsylvania bill to take away the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s authority to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative took another step toward becoming law.

House Bill 637 passed 17-6 out of the House Environmental Resources and Energy committee June 8. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, would require legislative approval before the state could join the RGGI or any other program aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

A companion bill cleared the Senate environmental committee last month. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed similar legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, last fall.

State lawmakers also recently asked the administrators of the RGGI to bar Pennsylvania’s entrance to the program unless it has legislative approval. They argued Wolf doesn’t have the power on his own to order the state to join the regional cap-and-trade program.

All the while, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is moving forward with its plan to join the program. 

Four DEP advisory committees recently recommended the department move ahead with its proposed rule to join the RGGI. The final rule is expected to go before the Environmental Quality Board for a vote in July.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was created to limit emissions from power plants. The original RGGI member states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

Proponents of the move to join the RGGI say it’s necessary for Pennsylvania to reduce air pollution and could increase the state’s GDP and create new jobs. The DEP estimated that participating in the program can reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. The program is estimated to bring in $300 million in its first year.

Opponents argue joining the program would amount to a burdensome carbon tax that would cost the state jobs and hurt the economy.

Wolf proposed using a portion of Pennsylvania’s RGGI revenue to create a new Energy Communities Trust Fund that would directly support a just transition for coal workers and coal communities. 

Related content:

Pennsylvania still facing uphill battle to join RGGI

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