HARRISBURG – At the request of Sen. Joe Pittman (R-41), Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) and Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), eighteen members of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus, including party leaders, signed on to a letter this week urging Governor Tom Wolf to rescind an Executive Order instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a compact between several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that imposes a carbon tax on electricity production and require fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances.
“Since the execution of the executive order, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped Pennsylvania’s economy,” Sen. Pittman said. “High unemployment and business closures are still in effect. This pandemic, combined with this Administration’s unilateral action and additional mandates, have significantly impacted the policy making process in Pennsylvania, including the legislative and regulatory processes, which rely heavily on the ability of workers, employers and communities to weigh in on the development of major policy initiatives. The last thing we need to do is burden our citizens with a nearly $300 million annual tax on carbon – a tax which will be paid by electricity consumers and employers alike.”
“As I said back in October when the executive order was first issued, I have to pause when a plan is put forth that joins us into a compact with states that thumb their nose at Pennsylvania energy,” Senator Yaw said. “New York and New Jersey have both banned new pipelines that would allow our natural gas to flow to large markets like New York City and Boston whose ratepayers currently have to rely on foreign imports from Russia to supply their gas needs. That being said, our economy continues to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Governor should delay any further action until the process for transparency and the opportunity for public comment can be fully realized.”
“Pennsylvania now has the terrible distinction of having the highest unemployment claim rate in the nation. If the Governor insists on his executive order to push Pennsylvania into RGGI, he will hurt us even more,” said Senator Argall. “We will lose even more family-sustaining jobs in hard-hit communities like Shenandoah, all across this region. The Governor had earlier supported federal plans to help the coal refuse industry, but his executive order will now push them out of business. We have the ability to successfully balance both our environmental and economic needs, but the Governor’s executive order does not strike this balance.”
Participating RGGI states, through legislative or regulatory action, agree to implement the Initiative through a tax and spend program involving CO2 emitting electric power plants. In order to show compliance with the CO2 cap, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance,” for each ton of CO2, they emit. These purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI. Given the potential negative economic impacts of any carbon tax program, the senators also introduced legislation in November, Senate Bill 950, establishing a process for transparency, public comment and submission to the General Assembly.
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee was recently forced to cancel four public hearings to discuss the carbon dioxide budget trading program proposal. Those meetings were to be held both in Harrisburg and within impacted communities. The Committee had intended to hear from several representatives from organized labor, local business and political leaders, and electric customers concerned about the impact the regulatory proposal could have on electric generation across Pennsylvania. The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee continues to develop a process to continue its oversight responsibilities.
For a copy of the letter, click here.
Carlton Logue (Pittman)
Nick Troutman (Yaw)
Josh Paul (Argall)