Shapiro Imperils Electric Grid Reliability

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Cleverly announced the day before Thanksgiving (when few pay attention to the news) Governor Josh Shapiro’s administration appealed a recent Commonwealth court ruling that voided Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative known as RGGI.

Simply put RGGI is a carbon tax on the generators of electricity that claims to be a means of reducing carbon emissions to combat the fallacy of man-made climate change which has become a staple of Left-wing orthodoxy. The compact was entered into by former Governor Tom Wolf who did so by executive fiat bypassing legislative approval.

Legislative approval was never going to happen. The legal issue before the courts stems from the fact RGGI is a tax and no tax can be constitutionally levied without an affirmative vote by the General Assembly. Wolf and Shapiro have contended RGGI is not a tax, but Commonwealth Court agreed with legislative leaders that a tax it is. The issue now goes before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which has a history of legislating from the bench while kicking the state constitution to the curb.

But this is a tricky situation for both Shapiro and for the high court. The anvil of RGGI hanging over the head of the electric generation sector has already forced the closure of one coal-fired power plant. The result was the loss of hundreds of family sustaining union jobs. Should Pennsylvania continue in the RGGI alliance hundreds, perhaps thousands more jobs will be lost. The projected 30% increase in electricity costs will also substantially impact working class families already reeling from the nearly 20% cumulative inflation rate since Joe Biden took office.

So the issue pits two traditional Democrat constituencies – radical environmentalists and trade unions — against each other. That puts Shapiro on the hot seat. So he did what he typically does – he is attempting to finesse the issue by framing it as one of protecting executive authority rather than one of economic impact to those whose jobs depend on a healthy energy sector and to consumers.

Setting aside that RGGI is an ineffective solution to a non-existent problem, it also exacerbates the growing frailty of the nation’s electric power grid. At a time when radical greens are attempting to force the conversion of the nation’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles its policies are also not only preventing the construction of new power generation facilities, but they are destroying existing capacity.

A plan to build a $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant in Renovo, Clinton County was abandoned earlier this year due to the Left’s opposition to the use of fossil fuels. Their fight against new electric generating facilities extends to non-fossil fuel projects as well. Plans to build a power generating dam on the Susquehanna River in York County have also encountered stiff opposition.

The shuttering of power plants is not limited to Pennsylvania. Penn’s Woods is part of the PJM power grid which includes Maryland. An agreement with the radical Left Sierra Club is going to result in the closure of the Brandon Shores coal plant located just outside of Baltimore. Owned by Talen Energy, closure of the plant is related to the company’s “transition” to as yet undependable green energy sources which fail to compensate for the generation loss from the forced closure of coal-fired power plants.

Christopher Summers, founder and president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute told Fox News Digital that the accelerated timeline for closure of the Brandon Shores plant is going to create a “major reliability concern for the state.” He added “until current risks to our grid are fully dealt with it’s a mistake to close reliable, baseload power plants too soon.”

The fallacy of such politically-driven premature transitions to so-called green energy sources manifested itself in September when ERCOT, which manages the Texas electric grid came dangerous close to imposing power black-outs as a heat wave coupled with a lack of wind combined to stress the system. A significant portion of electric inputs to the Texas power grid is derived from wind power which proved to be undependable at exactly the time it was most needed.

RGGI is a dagger aimed directly at the heart of the dependability of the PJM power grid. At the moment the dagger is in Governor Josh Shapiro’s hands. Despite his attempt to reframe the issue as one of executive authority it is actually a capitulation to the environmental extremists of his own party – leaving consumers and union labor workers as collateral damage.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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