Gov. Tom Wolf says the revenue from enrolling in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will provide funding to train workers to move out of jobs in the fossil fuels industry while allowing the state to ramp up its effort to combat climate change.
“Participating in RGGI will further our commonwealth’s climate goals, mitigate ongoing damage from climate change and invest in our workforce. Funds brought in through RGGI will allow us to make targeted investments to support workers and communities affected by energy transition, invest in environmental justice, and strengthen Pennsylvania’s clean energy, commercial and industrial sectors,” Wolf said.
While Wolf touted the potential benefits of the move to join RGGI, lawmakers in the state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would bar the state from joining the initiative without first getting approval from the General Assembly.
“This would be a $550 million tax that would be ultimately paid for by any consumer of electricity,” said state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana County, the main sponsor of Senate Bill 119. The legislation, which passed by a 35-15 vote, now goes to the House.
He said the legislatures of every other state — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia — participating in RGGI authorized the move to join the initiative.
State Sen. Nikil Saval, D-Philadelphia County, called Pittman’s legislation “a misguided attempt to undermine a process that’s well underway.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), at the direction of the governor, is currently taking steps through the regulatory process to participate in RGGI, a market-based collaboration among nearly a dozen Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change while generating economic growth.
Participating states implement RGGI through a regional cap-and-trade program involving CO2 emitting electric power plants. In order to show compliance with the cap, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance,” for each ton of CO2 they emit. These purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI. The proceeds from the auctions are allocated back to the participating states in proportion to the amount of carbon subject to regulation in each state.
Wolf joined state Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester County and state Rep. Dianne Herrin, D-Chester County, who have each introduced legislation to plot out how the state would spend the revenue it gets from enrolling in the greenhouse gas initiative.
Herrin said that participating in RGGI would help cut carbon pollution from Pennsylvania by 188 million tons by 2030.
Saval said that based on the last RGGI auction, Pennsylvania would have received about $600 million if the state had been enrolled.
Herrin said the legislation will help Pennsylvania cut greenhouse gas emissions while also getting revenue to help the state navigate the transition away from fossil fuels.
“This bill recognizes that the energy sector is changing forever. The transitioning of our energy economy away from the most polluting fuel sources has already begun. This train is out of the station,” she said.
Herrin pointed to the announcement last week that a pipeline company had canceled plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline to move gas from Canada into the United States. In addition, the owners of the Cheswick Generating Station have announced plans to close the coal-fired power plant in Allegheny County in September and the owners of a coal mine on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border have announced plans to close, as well.