(Editor’s Note: Earlier this week the Commonwealth of Virginia withdrew from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.)
By Michael Straw
It’s been one year since Pennsylvania Senate Democrats voted to raise electricity rates across the Commonwealth by forcing our state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Since then, we’ve seen power plants begin to shut down, job losses, and utility rates jumping across Pennsylvania. This could’ve been prevented, if Pennsylvania Senate Democrats had united with Senate Republicans to stop executive overreach and protect Pennsylvanians who are already suffering from high inflation.
Let’s rewind. In late 2019, Governor Tom Wolf and his administration made a unilateral move by cutting the state legislature out of the approval process to admit Pennsylvania into RGGI. He did this despite RGGI being a tax that impacts energy producers everywhere in the Commonwealth. This tax on energy producers ultimately gets passed down to consumers, who have already been dealing with higher costs.
For their part, Pennsylvania legislative Republicans, including in the State Senate, worked tirelessly to refocus the process back into the legislature’s hands. On April 4, 2022, the State Senate voted to override Governor Wolf’s veto and return the power of joining RGGI to where it ultimately belongs: the state legislature.
Unfortunately, the 32–17 tally still fell one vote shy of the votes necessary, with a vast majority of Democrats voting to support Wolf and his tax. According to the Independent Fiscal Office, RGGI will cost electricity customers throughout Pennsylvania up to $800 million. Senate Democrats are to blame for this increased financial burden on middle-class families.
There have been many groups opposed to Pennsylvania joining RGGI. They include the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Free Coal Alliance, and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMA), amongst many others. The PMA took a step further in July 2022 and filed a brief in Commonwealth Court stating that RGGI will “irreparably damage” our state’s commerce.
In fact, some Pennsylvania workers have already felt the consequences of RGGI. Recently, it was announced in The Indiana Gazette that the Homer City Generation LP plant in Homer City, PA would be shutting down. The shutting down of this plant would include 129 jobs being terminated as well. The PA Power Alliance forewarned policy makers of these closures and job losses in a release. The Alliance concluded that RGGI would impact 8,170 total jobs that stemmed from power plants and jobs that help maintain them. Our Commonwealth can’t afford to have workers be sidelined and see a loss of energy production during a time of high inflation.
Homer City officials said RGGI will severely limit their ability to plan long-term and it will handcuff the business in making further investments with an uncertain regulatory future.
The Indiana Gazette, April 4, 2023
As a result of RGGI being rammed through without legislative approval, we are seeing price increases for utilities in the Commonwealth. In May, the PUC announced price increases for a majority of energy providers. This isn’t the first electricity increase under RGGI. According to the Commonwealth Foundation, electricity rates are estimated to increase from 24 to 36 percent for residential users.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a program that was implemented without our elected representative’s approval is now negatively impacting taxpayers in Pennsylvania. Remember the old slogan of “no taxation without representation?” Clearly, Governor Wolf clearly didn’t care, and Governor Shapiro is following in his predecessor’s footsteps with RGGI’s implementation.
Senate Democrats need to join with Republicans and pull Pennsylvania out of RGGI. There are other ways to preserve our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and diversify our energy industry without causing so much strain on Pennsylvanians. If they don’t right this wrong, we will continue to see the disruption of our energy industry, lost jobs, and continued hikes for energy prices on families.
Do the right thing for Pennsylvania. Pull us out of RGGI.
Michael Straw is the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee Communications Director.