Committee Approves Bills Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal

Senator Pittman’s comments on the bills at the meeting.

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved two bills today (September 3) that would increase legislative oversight on the Governor’s proposal to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), according to Senator Joe Pittman, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Committee.

The Committee approved Senate Bill 950, a measure introduced by Senator Pittman, and House Bill 2025, introduced by Representative Jim Struzzi, by an 8-3 vote.  The bills were supported by every Republican on the committee and one Democrat, Senator Andrew Dinniman.

The bills include identical language: creating the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act; clarifying that the Administration does not have the authority to unilaterally join RGGI; and, prohibiting the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from joining RGGI without Legislative approval.

“I want to thank Committee Chairman Gene Yaw and my fellow committee members for their support of these bills that address a proposal by the Governor that impacts the lives, livelihoods and quality of living for hundreds of families across Pennsylvania. I appreciate working with Jim Struzzi on this. It is great that the committee moved both of our bills today,” Senator Pittman said. “Entering RGGI is a decision of enormous consequence to every Pennsylvanian. RGGI paves the way for a tax to be placed on the emissions of carbon – the very gas we all exhale – from electric generation plants here in the Commonwealth.”

Senate Bill 950 and House Bill 2025 now go to the full Senate for consideration.

On October 3, Governor Wolf directed the DEP to join RGGI — a collaboration of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) set a cap on total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. In order to comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit.

If Pennsylvania joins RGGI, it would be the only major energy producing state in the compact and the resulting carbon tax on employers engaged in electric generation would devastate that industry and cost thousands of jobs.

“A unilateral attempt by the Governor to implement a carbon tax without legislative approval simply should not occur. By advancing this legislation we seek to ensure that our constitutional separation of powers remains intact,” Senator Pittman said. 

Senator Pittman has been particularly critical of the lack of engagement between the Administration and the communities that would be most severely impacted by the RGGI carbon tax.

“While your Administration claims to be concerned about ‘affected communities,’ which will be adversely impacted  by your efforts to impose a carbon tax on energy producers, I am unaware of any engagement that has occurred with Armstrong and Indiana counties on what will be done to replace the jobs lost, rehabilitate the sites of shuttered power plants, and replace the lost revenue to local governments – especially school districts,” Senator Pittman wrote in a July 14 letter to the Governor.

Senate Bill 950 and House Bill 2025 establish a series of steps that the DEP would be required to follow to ensure the public is informed and involved before it could submit a RGGI proposal to the General Assembly for consideration.

Initially, the DEP would be required to publish its RGGI legislation in the PA Bulletin and provide a public comment period of at least 180-days. During the comment period, DEP would be required to hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.

Following the public comment period, DEP would be required to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI would have on impacted communities, the Commonwealth, and the PJM Interconnection region.

“I and several of my colleagues have invited the Governor to Armstrong and Indiana Counties to visit our power generation plants to speak with the women and men who work to keep our lights on and our homes heated. They are greatly concerned that a carbon tax puts their family-sustaining jobs at risk and will create an economic crisis throughout western Pennsylvania,” Senator Pittman said. 

Video of the full meeting.

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