Pa moving ahead with power plant emission caps

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is working to bring the state into a regional consortium of states that sets a price and caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, part of the Democrat’s agenda to fight climate change, Kallanish Energy reports.

Wolf made a formal announcement Thursday that he’s ordering a start to the process of joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), administration officials said.

Draw the Republican’s ire

The move is expected to draw the ire of Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature. A court challenge also is possible from owners of the worst-polluting power plants in the nation’s No. 3 electric power state, which could be required to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the state annually.

Environmental advocates applauded joining the consortium of northeastern and mid-Atlantic states as an important step. “It’s got a track record of success, it’s time-tested and it has had bipartisan support,” David Masur, executive director of Pennsylvania-based PennEnvironment, told The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania would be consortium’s biggest polluter

With dozens of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, Pennsylvania would be, by far, the biggest emissions state in the consortium. Its power plants emit about 92 million tons a year compared with the consortium’s 2019 cap of 80.2 million tons.

Leaders of the Republican House majority stopped short of rejecting RGGI in a joint statement Thursday. But they also criticized what they called Wolf’s “go-it-alone” approach, and vowed to use their powers to ensure their constituents voices are heard.

“We believe the executive branch cannot bind the state into multi-state agreements without the approval of the General Assembly, and we plan to execute the fullest extent of our legislative power on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania,” the House GOP leaders said, in a joint statement.

The right fit?

Sen. Gene Yaw, Republican-Lycoming County and the chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, posed his own questions about whether RGGI is the right fit for Pennsylvania, reported.

When it comes to energy policy, Yaw said Thursday, “We have very little in common with New York, New Jersey, and the New England states … How can we have a common interest with New York and the New England region when they prohibit the importation of our gas?

“They thumb their nose at Pennsylvania gas and embrace and purchase gas from Russia.

Not a unilateral decision

“For a step of this magnitude, which affects consumers, business, industry and public policy the legislature, who represents the citizens of this state, must be involved in the dialogue on joining RGGI. It cannot be a unilateral decision,” Yaw said.

Wolf earned instant praise for getting the ball rolling from leading environmental advocates, some of whom have criticized Wolf for being too hesitant on the climate change front in the past.

“After the climate strikes and U.N. Climate Summit in recent weeks, many Pennsylvanians wondered what could be done right here in our state,” said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center.

“Gov. Wolf is providing a bold answer. Given a choice between living in the past with dirty fuels or being on the right side of history, Pennsylvania’s leaders are showing they’re ready to do what’s right and protect our communities and future generations across the state.”

Leaders of the state’s largest business organization, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said they appreciated Wolf’s call for a big-table approach.

In consortium states, owners of power plants fueled by coal, oil or natural gas with a capacity of 25 megawatts must buy a credit for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. That gives them an incentive to lower their emissions while making non-emitting plants — such as nuclear power plants, wind turbines and solar installations — more cost competitive in power markets.

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