Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sen. Costa Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Power Plants, Protect Communities, Workers Already Affected By Changing Energy Economy

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.
“The federal government has abdicated responsibility on climate change — states, local governments, private companies and citizens must take the lead in enacting equitable policies to mitigate the growing impacts of climate change,” said Sen. Costa.
“Pennsylvania has already made important strides towards reducing greenhouse gases, and mayors from Pennsylvania’s two largest cities have already committed to reducing carbon emissions,” said Sen. Costa. “But more work is needed to achieve emission reductions and to make sure Pennsylvania isn’t left behind in the burgeoning growth of clean energy technologies and jobs.” 
Sen. Costa said there are 17 co-sponsors of the bill, including Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) and Sen. John Yudichak (I-Luzerne).
Click Here for the text of the bill.
The legislation instructs the Environmental Quality Board to reduce carbon pollution emissions from the electric power sector-- the largest source of emissions in Pennsylvania-- by requiring net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2050. 
The Board can develop a market-based carbon pollution limit, which ensures a technology neutral, flexible approach that incentivizes the most cost-effective emission reductions and generates revenue for investments in economic development, workforce training, energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy affordability.  
The legislation also enables the Board to adopt mechanisms that facilitate deployment of zero emissions technologies, measures that provide for ongoing assessment of emission sources in the electric power sector that adversely affect disadvantaged communities and for reductions in harmful air pollution affecting communities, protect against emissions leakage across state borders, and to join one or more multijurisdictional programs for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Energy Transition
The bill provides that revenue generated from the program be directed towards programs that promote clean air, mitigate utility bill impacts and protect low-income consumers, increase energy efficiency, and assist workers and communities impacted by the closure of power plants or mines. 
The legislation creates a 17 member Energy Transition Board appointed by the Governor and the Senate and House to develop an energy transition plan.
The energy transition plan is to guide disbursements from a new Energy Transition Fund which would support these purposes--
-- 15 percent used to provide electricity bill assistance to low-income residential customers;
-- 20 percent for Weatherization Assistance program;
-- 30 percent to invest in solar, clean energy and energy efficiency programs; and
-- 35 percent for programs and projects to support workers and communities impacted by the closure of energy facilities or to support environmental justice communities.
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.
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.
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.
Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage to learn more about the proposal.
John Walliser, Senior Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs for the PA Environmental Council issued this statement--
“Senate Bill 15 starts Pennsylvania on the right path toward a decarbonized energy sector and economy.  Not only will this legislation advance proven, market-based approach to reducing emissions, it will direct proceeds to programs that will spur investment and innovation, create jobs, benefit consumers, and help address the needs of vulnerable communities while reducing air pollution.
“Pennsylvania needs an ‘all-in’ approach to achieving a net zero economy, one that will look to spur investment and drive innovation, create jobs, and benefit consumers while also reducing our emissions,” Walliser said. “That approach is achievable, and it needs to happen now. Senate Bill 15 is a key first step. We commend the sponsors of this legislation and urge its advancement in the General Assembly.”
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, issued this statement on the legislation-- “I applaud Senator Costa for showing real leadership on this important issue.  
“We’ve heard climate deniers whine that the legislature has somehow been cut out of the conversation on reducing carbon pollution.  
“On the contrary, the General Assembly can and should play a constructive role to shape this process and ensure all Pennsylvanians share in the benefits of RGGI participation.  In particular, with coal plants retiring over the last decade and the remaining few set to close with or without RGGI, SB 15 is actual proactive policy to ensure a just transition.
“The electric power sector is responsible for roughly one-third of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions, and our power plants emit more CO2 than those in all ten RGGI participating states combined. 
“SB 15 will strengthen the ongoing regulatory process to have Pennsylvania participate in this thriving market-based program.  Cutting carbon pollution to net-zero by mid-century is absolutely necessary, and this bill puts us on a glidepath to achieve that.  
“SB 15 also makes critical investment decisions that serve a broad set of social and economic purposes, in addition to driving further emission reductions. 
“Pennsylvania has a lot of work to do, but the Energy Transition and Recovery Act charts a path for the Commonwealth to recover and thrive for decades.” 
Mandy Warner, Director of Climate and Clean Air Policy, Environmental Defense Fund, had these comments on the legislation-- “Today, with Senator Costa’s leadership, Pennsylvania continues its momentum for cutting climate pollution and showing it is ready to lead. 
“Implementing a competitive, market-driven system of carbon limits for the power sector will set the Commonwealth on the road toward meeting Gov. Wolf’s achievable, and essential, climate goals while driving investment in Pennsylvania, including in impacted communities. 
“As Pennsylvania maps its energy and climate future, we urge swift passage of this legislation which will help us achieve a carbon-free economy by mid-century.”
PennFuture issued this statement by Rob Altenburg, Director of the PennFuture Energy Center, on the introduction of Senate Bill 15--  
“Given the failure of the federal government to combat climate change, Pennsylvania’s elected leaders have a responsibility to act.  Pennsylvania must invest in a sustainable future. The Covid-19 crisis—as well as rapidly disappearing coal generation—will leave many workers and communities without a path forward unless we take action. 
“Senate Bill 15 is a necessary piece of legislation that is crucial to cutting our carbon pollution now and in the future, but it will also give us the tools to manage our state’s energy transition by investing in our workers and protecting vulnerable communities. 
“No other state is offering such an innovative plan that combats the climate crisis while prioritizing this level of investment in our communities and workforce. PennFuture steadfastly supports this legislation and thanks Senator Costa and the other co-sponsors for spearheading Senate Bill 15.”
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[Posted: July 30, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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