Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Rep. Metcalfe Calls Out DEP Secretary For Evasive RGGI Non-Answers During Budget Hearing

On February 24, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, issued this statement following the House budget hearing on DEP's budget request--
“Much like his testimony several times before the House ERE committee, Secretary McDonnell’s extremely insulting pattern of evasive non-answers and blatant refusal to provide any substantive information on the rogue governor’s executive order to begin illegally entering Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) amounted to more Chicken Little, partisan-pandering for the governor’s job-killing, false-science-driven climate proposals. 
“Although the Secretary conveniently failed to mention it once again, RGGI would be imposed through massive energy taxes and overregulation.” 
Here is Rep. Metcalfe’s summary of questions that Secretary McDonnell failed to sufficiently answer while testifying under oath: 
-- How can the implementation of RGGI be driven by market forces, when RGGI is a government program? 
[Note: Like market-based programs enacted to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, cap-and-invest programs set caps on total emissions and let pollution sources reduce emissions by either eliminating those emissions or purchasing allowances to make the reductions in a free market.
[These programs have a proven track record over several decades and are effective at making sure the most cost-effective emission reductions are made by covered sources.
[Secretary McDonnell has explained the process to Senate and House committees several times.]
-- Why would the Wolf administration unilaterally move to join RGGI, when the evidence clearly indicates that it would negatively impact industry and jobs throughout Pennsylvania? 
[As Secretary McDonnell said at the budget hearing, part of the RGGI development process is modeling the economic impact of this specific program.  He noted, however, that the “do nothing option” shows the closure of coal-fired power plants will continue as market forces, driven by low natural gas prices, make them uneconomical.  Eighteen coal plants have closed since the widespread development of natural gas in Pennsylvania and increases in renewable energy sources. With RGGI, at the least, the state would have the resources to help deal with the dislocation impacts on these workers and communities.
[In addition, Secretary McDonnell told the House Environmental Committee on September 19 DEP has evaluated the economic impact of the top 15 actions recommended in the Update Climate Action Plan, and found 6,500 new jobs would be created by 2025 and result in a $200 million contribution to the economy.  By 2050, 40,000 new jobs would be created and result in a $3.7 billion contribution to the economy.
[The Environmental Defense Fund in November announced two separate analyses of Pennsylvania joining RGGI found the program offers significant economic, health and other benefits.]
-- Does the Wolf administration anticipate dropping the emissions cap at some point in the future to zero tons of CO2 to eliminate coal and other fossil fuels? 
[This is one of many factors that must be negotiated with RGGI states.  It is also an issue DEP is modeling and evaluating in its regulation development process.  In the past, RGGI has reduced the cap between 2 to 3 percent a year.]
“Until the Wolf Administration can honestly move beyond the realm of zero answers, uncertainty and non-transparency as to how the RGGI process would proceed, Pennsylvania taxpayers and job-creating energy producers have every reason to question whether our tax dollars are being spent in an appropriate manner by executive agencies such as the DEP,” said Rep. Metcalfe.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: dmetcalf@pahousegop.com
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[Posted: February 25, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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