Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Senate Republicans Cut Off Debate, Amendments Then Pass Bill Taking Away DEP’s Authority To Adopt A Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants; Bill Goes To Governor

On September 9, Senate Republicans cut off any opportunity for debate and any amendments and then, with some Democrats, passed House Bill 2025 (Struzzi-R-Indiana) taking away DEP’s authority to adopt a carbon pollution reduction program for power plants compatible with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by a vote of 33 to 17. [Not a veto-proof majority, like in the House.]
Sen. Joe Pittman (R-Indiana), prime sponsor of a companion bill, rose immediately and moved the previous question which cut off debate and the consideration of any amendments.
Eight amendments were timely filed to House Bill 2025 by Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) and Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery).  None of the amendments were considered as a result of the Republican maneuver.
Sen. Santarsiero, Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said during the daily comment period on the Senate floor after the vote, that Republicans were afraid of debating the “radical ideas” in amendments he planned to offer.
Sen. Santarsiero’s amendments included-
-- The General Assembly recognizes that climate change is happening and that it is a result of human activity;
-- The General Assembly recognizes that reducing carbon emissions is central to fighting climate change;
-- The General Assembly recognizes that the growth in production of natural gas-fired power plants has made coal- fired power plants less profitable; and
-- The General Assembly supports the right of workers to organize in the energy industry.
Sen. Satarsiero also said none of the Republicans offered any proposals-- like RGGI-- to help the workers and communities impacted by the closure of coal-fired power plants which will close anyway as a result of competition with natural gas.
“Are we going to be on the side of protecting those future generations of the world?  Or are we on the side of darkness?” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Today this chamber chose a side.”
Republican Tom Killion (R-Delaware) voted against the bill.  Democrats James Brewster (D-Allegheny), Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) and Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) voted for the bill.  See Vote Here.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his action.  Gov. Wolf said he will veto the bill.
PennFuture released this statement on the Senate vote-- “Implementing a cap-and-invest program in Pennsylvania compatible with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would unquestionably save lives and reduce our carbon pollution, yet our elected officials in the General Assembly are attempting to block Gov. Wolf’s efforts to do just that,” said Rob Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. “Now is not the time for political posturing and games. The climate crisis continues to worsen by the day, and the federal government has shown time and again it lacks the appetite to take action to protect us. Immediate action is needed to put Pennsylvania on a path toward a sustainable and clean energy economy, and today’s vote in the state Senate is both a gift to polluters and a step in the wrong direction. We call on Gov. Wolf to veto this misguided legislation and to continue moving Pennsylvania forward in the cap-and-invest rulemaking process."
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, issued the following statement:
“HB 2025, framed as a mere process bill designed to give the General Assembly a ‘voice,’ is instead extremist climate denier policy that would strip DEP of its existing power to control carbon pollution in Pennsylvania.  The bill’s sponsors obviously want to block Pennsylvania from establishing a program to control air pollution from power plants and participate in RGGI, but HB 2025 hamstrings DEP’s efforts to take any action to limit carbon pollution from any source going forward.”
On October 3, Gov. Wolf issued an executive order directing DEP, under its existing statutory authority, to prepare a proposed regulation establishing a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program for power plants compatible with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
That announcement kicked off a public discussion of setting up a program in the Senate and House, with DEP advisory committees and with the public generally.
There have been multiple hearings and information meetings in the Senate and House already on DEP’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program, plus individual discussions with legislators on the issue, starting last October before DEP even had a formal proposal.
On November 19, Senate and House Republicans announced legislation to take away DEP’s authority to adopt any greenhouse gas reduction program like RGGI or the Regional Transportation Climate Initiative addressing carbon emission reductions from vehicle fuels.
No legislation was introduced by Republicans to address how the proceeds from a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program would be used to support communities and workers affected by the transition happening now to a cleaner energy economy.
On January 30 DEP released draft regulations establishing a cap-and-invest Carbon Pollution Reduction Program capable with RGGI for discussion with stakeholders, advisory committees and the public and during individual meetings with legislators and stakeholders.
Three DEP advisory committees considered DEP’s proposal-- two voted against forwarding the proposal to the Environmental Quality Board for consideration and the third ended in a tie vote.
On April 21, 18 Senate Republicans wrote to Gov. Wolf asking him to withdraw his executive order requiring DEP to develop a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program.  On May 5, House Republican members did a similar letter.
Gov.  Wolf declined to withdraw the executive order and urged Republicans to help develop a plan that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.  Read more here.
The Senate and House environmental committees have held multiple hearings and information sessions on DEP’s carbon pollution reduction proposal starting with a briefing in the Senate on October 22 even before the formal proposal was introduced.
A June 23 Senate committee hearing summarizes the major points made on DEP’s carbon pollution reduction proposal.  Read more here.
On July 3, House Republicans passed House Bill 2025 taking away DEP’s authority to enact carbon pollution reduction programs and moved the bill to the Senate.
On July 30, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, Jr. (D-Allegheny) introduced Senate Bill 15 which, consistent with existing statutory authority, provides for the adoption of a “Cap and Invest” program to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and for the use of proceeds from the program to protect communities and workers already adversely affected by the changing energy economy, provide low-income assistance with energy bills and promotes clean energy and energy efficiency. Read more here.
Similar legislation was introduced in the House-- House Bill 2856-- by Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester).
DEP is due to present its proposed regulation establishing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program to the EQB on September 15 for consideration which will kick off another round of public comment, comment by the Senate and House and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.  Read more here.
Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage to learn more about the proposal.
Related Articles This Week:
-- PA Conservative Energy Forum Hosts Town Hall Meetings Sept. 24 - Do Pennsylvanians Support Renewable Energy? [Yes]; Sept. 29 - Renewable Energy Is Essential To National Security
[Posted: Sept. 9, 2020] PA Environment Digest

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