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Lawmakers vote to stop state’s entrance to cap-and-trade program

  • Rachel McDevitt
The Pennsylvania State Capitol is seen in this file photo.

Tom Downing / WITF

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is seen in this file photo.

State lawmakers voted to stop a new rule that would let Pennsylvania join a regional program targeting greenhouse gas emissions.

Gov. Tom Wolf is likely to veto the measure, but that won’t mean the regulation could immediately take effect.

Joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a central piece of Wolf’s plan to lower emissions and address climate change.

The cap-and-trade program with 11 other states charges power plants for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit, making dirtier sources of energy less competitive. The state can use the money raised to fund clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

The state House voted 130-70 to disapprove of the commonwealth joining RGGI. Three members did not vote because there were on leave.

Opponents say it will hurt the state’s economy, killing jobs at coal-fired power plants and raising costs for manufacturers.

“We’re talking nearly 1,500 jobs and about $873 million just in Indiana County alone,” said Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana). “Do you know what that means to local communities? Do you know what that means to school taxes, to property taxes?”

Supporters say joining RGGI is the most important thing the fossil fuel-producing state can do now to act on climate. Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the U.S. for carbon emissions.

Some said their constituents are already feeling the effects of climate change.

“In suburban Montgomery County, 147 of my neighbors still live in hotels because their homes were destroyed in the last 100-year flood, which happened to be the third 100-year flood we’ve had in 18 months,” said Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery).

In a statement, Wolf’s office said the vote confirms that Republicans have no plan to help Pennsylvanians.

“They have advanced nothing to address this increasingly critical threat of climate change and they have no plan to support workers impacted by closing facilities — facilities that have been closing without RGGI in place,” said spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer.

She said the governor remains committed to seeing the regulation take effect.

Wolf has 10 calendar days to act on the bill.

If he vetoes it, the House and Senate each have 30 calendar days or 10 legislative days–whichever is longer–to try to override it.

While that clock is ticking, the Wolf Administration can’t join RGGI.

If the override attempt fails to get the required two-thirds majority, then the regulation can go into effect.

Neither the Senate nor the House passed the resolution with a two-thirds majority.

Wolf Administration officials have said they expect a legal challenge to the rule.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office. 

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