A year and a-half after it was due, the state Department of Environmental Protection has published a legally-mandated report about how climate change will affect the state.
The document was released online earlier this week with little fanfare– a press release wasn’t issued.
A second climate report outlining ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions is still a year overdue.
Under a 2008 law, both documents were due last year, but as StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, the process surrounding their publication has been fraught with problems.
Since the deadlines passed, the former head of the DEP has publicly questioned the science behind climate change, the department’s policy office has attempted to suppress a peer reviewed scientific paper, and the staffer charged with overseeing the reports has resigned out of frustration.
Members of the DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC), including environmental advocates and a representative of the state’s coal industry have also questioned why the reports have been delayed.
“It’s been sitting on their desk for a year”
Christina Simeone is with the environmental group, PennFuture and chairs the CCAC. She’s pleased the DEP has published the Climate Impacts Assessment report.
“It’s been sitting on their desk for a year, so that’s good news,” she says.
She’s more frustrated with progress surrounding the other late report– the greenhouse gas action plan.
At a CCAC meeting this week, the DEP declined to consider recommendations to increase renewable energy requirements to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). The 2004 law requires 18 percent of Pennsylvania electricity to be produced through alternative-energy sources by 2021.
Simeone says the department also informed the committee it intends to delete a portion of the 2009 greenhouse gas action report which outlines ways renewable energy can lower electricity costs for consumers through a mechanism known as price suppression.
When the previous report went out for public comment, the DEP received push back about the validity of renewable energy price suppression.
This is how the agency responded in 2009:
The department reasserts that the addition of renewable generation serves to
lower the overall clearing price of electricity in the market, a benefit to consumers. This
fact is supported in several reports …
DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman says although there’s been discussion about removing the price analysis, no decisions have been made yet.
“DEP has not determined whether or not it will be included in the action plan,” she says in an email to StateImpact Pennsylvania.
“A reasonable dialogue on energy”
Simeone doesn’t believe the Corbett administration takes climate change seriously.
“It starts to look like the DEP just wants to ignore the benefits of renewable energy,” she says. “Really it defies logic, because increasing renewable energy is the cornerstone of any climate change plan.”State Energy Executive, Patrick Henderson, says Pennsylvania already has renewable energy standards which the administration takes seriously.
“Gov. Corbett is also committed to promoting and expanding Pennsylvania’s competitive electricity markets – which is one of the most effective approaches to growing and sustaining a diverse energy portfolio,” he writes in an email to StateImpact Pennslyvania.
“For advocacy groups to suggest that the only way to spur diverse, renewable energy is through an increased government mandate is simply a false premise.”
Henderson also had sharp criticism for Simeone’s characterization of the Corbett administration.
“In nearly three years neither Ms. Simeone nor Pennfuture has taken up the Administration’s offer to engage in a reasonable dialogue on energy issues – preferring instead to play the role of keyboard warriors by issuing baseless press releases instead of face to face discussion. Her comments and concerns ring hollow and are more than a bit disingenuous.”
Simeone fired back, saying she’s heard a similar tone before.
“I find Mr. Henderson’s remarks to lack professionalism and key elements that suggest a true desire to have cordial discourse on this issue,” she says.
It’s worth noting both climate reports are non-binding, so the AEPS would not change unless the legislature acted.