PA Legislators Gear Up to Fight Carbon Tax

Member Group : Center Square

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Republicans waited less than a day to mount a legislative defense against an impending carbon price regulation on the state’s lucrative power sector.

House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry Township, assembled the panel Thursday morning to vote on a concurrent resolution disapproving the regulation that would open the doors for Pennsylvania to join the multistate emissions capping program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The regulation was crafted by the Department of Environmental Protection under the October 2019 order of Gov. Tom Wolf, who says joining RGGI will help the state reduce its harmful carbon emissions by 225 million metric tons and create 27,000 jobs over the next decade.

The 11 participating states have cut power sector carbon pollution 45% since 2005 and provided “direct bill assistance” to more than 1.5 million households during its first six years of existence.

Both the Environmental Quality Board and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved the regulation within the last three months – the latter less than 24 hours before Metcalfe scheduled a vote on the concurrent resolution.

“It’s [resolution] a different process that we don’t take up regularly, but we don’t need to regularly unless you have a rogue administration who ignores the law and the constitution,” Metcalfe said. “And that’s what we have today.”

Critics say the DEP’s modeling is based on faulty assumptions and could spike consumer electricity bills by as much as 18%. There’s also the impact to the state’s remaining coal-fired power plants, which they say will shutter early and leave thousands jobless.

Metcalfe and other Republicans on the committee said Thursday that emissions “leakage” from non-participating states, like Ohio and West Virginia, would erase the positive air quality impacts RGGI may realize in the state. And there’s nothing stopping other countries, they say, from burning fossil fuels without concern for the environment.

“There are several countries that are going to build, build, build and burn, burn, burn coal, no matter what we do in the United States,” Metcalfe said.

“Climate change is the most important issue long-term facing this planet, and RGGI is the most important thing Pennsylvania can do right now to address climate change,” he said.

The committee voted along party lines in favor of the resolution. It will now proceed to the House floor for consideration.

Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for the House Republican Caucus, told The Center Square on Thursday the forward progress on RGGI “will have devastating effects” on jobs, the state’s “homegrown” energy sector and the price of electricity for residents.

“Continuing to express our caucus’s opposition to this initiative is a major priority and all options remain on the table to address it,” he said.

The governor could veto the resolution, should it pass both chambers. Lawmakers would then have to muster a two-thirds majority to override that veto – an obstacle that Republicans, so far this year, have been unable to overcome.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro will also spend the next 30 days reviewing the legality of the RGGI regulations as the next step in the process. Pennsylvania is on track to join the program in early 2022, though legal challenges could slow that timeline.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.