House passes bill to block PA from entering greenhouse gas reduction program

The GOP-led state House of Representatives approved, largely on party lines, a bill that would require the General Assembly’s approval of any measure by state environmental authorities to “abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions by imposing a revenue-generating or fee on dioxide emissions.”

House Bill 2025, sponsored by state Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, would thwart the Wolf administration’s attempt to enroll the state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The RGGI is a coalition of mid-Atlantic and New England states, including Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, that require their energy sectors to buy and sell credits to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

RGGI on Wednesday welcomed Virginia as its 12th member state.

Adopting RGGI’s mandatory budget-trading program would mean the end of Pennsylvania’s coal-fired electric generating units, which have already taken a hit from the deregulation of the state’s electricity market, Struzzi wrote in a memo to colleagues after Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order calling for the DEP to implement the program.

“This would lead to the direct elimination of thousands of family sustaining jobs in those communities, not to mention the loss of millions in local and state tax revenues,” Struzzi said. “It would also have significant negative economic consequences regionally as these coal-fired EGUs consume nearly one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal production, an industry that provides $6.91 billion in total economic output to Pennsylvania.”

RGGI advocates say it’s a market-based incentive for the development of a carbon-neutral energy sector that raises revenue the state can invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The DEP estimates Pennsylvania could raise $300 million annually from RGGI.

More than 61 business leaders co-signed a letter Wednesday urging Pennsylvania’s environmental authorities to join RGGI, along with other green energy efforts, despite Republicans’ attempt to limit the DEP’s authority to do so.

The letter was co-signed by businesses, trade groups and nonprofit organizations that “recognize the economic and social value of energy efficiency.” Supporting organizations included AIA Pennsylvania, the statewide chapter of an organization representing architects, West Chester-based insulation contractor Green Stone Energy LLC, and Philadelphia trade group Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance.

They highlighted the $4 billion in net economic benefits in the form of job creation, utility savings and private investment that have come out of RGGI participation for its member states.

“Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy can reduce Pennsylvanians’ energy costs, strengthen business investment and create local jobs,” according to the letter. “For these reasons, we urge you to advance a proposed carbon trading budget program that enables the investment of proceeds into energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.”

The signatories advocated RGGI as a long-term solution to raising capital to invest in the clean energy industry. Doing so would fuel “the job engine of Pennsylvania’s economic recovery” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business leaders said the clean energy industry is badly in need of the stimulus that would be raised by RGGI’s budget trading, as the clean energy industry lost more than 21,000 jobs in the state in March and April, according to the businesses.

“The COVID-19 crisis has also demonstrated the importance of investing in resiliency so that communities may continue to function and maintain essential services like energy in times of widespread disruption,” the letter states.

Correction 7/9/20: An earlier version of this article misidentified AIA Pennsylvania as a Harrisburg-based architecture firm. 

Justin Henry
Justin Henry is the regional reporter for the Central Penn Business Journal and the Lehigh Valley Business. He can be reached at jhenry@bridgetowermedia.com.

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