The House voted 130-71 Wednesday to prevent the state joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative through executive action.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Pennsylvania will take steps to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a consortium among Northeastern states that requires polluters to pay for their emissions.
RGGI is a cap-and-trade program intended to limit emissions from power plants. Nine states, either through legislation or regulation, have agreed to set up such programs. They are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said New Jersey and Virginia are expected to join within the next two years.
Following the signing of an executive order by Gov. Tom Wolf on Oct. 3, DEP will “draft a regulation to present before the Environmental Quality Board for approval,” followed by a public comment period, according to a news release. At a news conference, Wolf said he expects a “robust” conversation with legislators, who could approve legislation for a cap-and-trade program.
In announcing his executive order, Wolf said climate change is a crisis, that carbon emissions must be lowered, and that RGGI has been effective in reducing emissions.
McDonnell said the cap-and-trade program works because power plants have to buy allowances if they exceed state-set emissions levels, and have to factor that cost in when they provide bids to PJM Interconnection, which manages the flow of wholesale electricity in all or part of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia. Because PJM buys the cheapest electricity first, McDonnell said, it will encourage emissions reductions.
It’s “a low-cost solution to a very high-cost problem of climate change,” he said.
Scientists say governments around the world need to quickly and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — a threshold seen as necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change, including extreme weather, droughts, and food shortages.
Among states, Pennsylvania is the fourth-biggest carbon polluter. The state is already experiencing climate-related impacts, including increased precipitation.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committee on Tuesday invited regulators, industry representatives, and environmental advocates to talk about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The bill would bar the Department of Environmental Protection from taking any action that is designed to control carbon dioxide emissions, including participation in a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program such as RGGI, unless the action is authorized by the General Assembly.
Some GOP lawmakers oppose Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order for Pa. to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
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The Democratic governor issued an executive order declaring Pennsylvania would join a regional agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not everyone is on board.
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The bill would allow Pennsylvania to set its own cap, or negotiate with a group of other states in a regional program.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is urging Republicans to authorize the state to join a regional consortium to limit greenhouse gases. At the same time, a citizen-led climate petition is under review at the state Department of Environmental Protection.