Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sen. Yaw Critical Of DEP Climate Consultant For Belonging To A Group That Endorsed DEP Carbon Pollution Reduction Program

On July 29, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, was critical of DEP's climate consultant-- ICF International, Inc.-- for belonging to a group that supported the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program covering power plants.
In a press release, Sen. Yaw said in June, several organizations penned a letter to the Wolf Administration, which was shared with members of the DEP Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), supporting the Department’s suggested redistribution of revenues derived through a RGGI auction of allowances.  
One of the signatories to that letter, “Combined Heat and Power Alliance (CHP Alliance),” lists ICF as a participating member organization.
ICF released this statement July 30 in response to Sen. Yaw's release--
"We hold memberships in multiple industry-related organizations to help our staff maintain professional and industry knowledge germane to our role as consultants. 
"We do not sponsor these organizations and our membership does not imply and should not be construed as ICF endorsing the policy, regulatory or lobbying positions these organizations may take from time-to-time. 
"Our role has been, and will continue to be, providing independent, objective analysis. As part of our business model, we do not advocate or lobby for any specific policy or regulatory positions."
“For a company claiming to be non-partisan and non-political, and one that has already received $475,000 in taxpayer money to prepare an unbiased study on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there certainly appears to be no shortage of conflicts,” Sen. Yaw said. “Interestingly enough, DEP recently awarded a new contract worth $399,000 to ICF to construct the department’s next climate change action plan.”
[Note: The earlier ‘conflict’ and ‘claiming to be non-partisan’ reference by Sen. Yaw was a letter he circulated last week purporting to show ICF’s direct support for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program, but which ICF said they were not aware of and did not give their permission for the use of their logo or any statement of support because it was against their company’s policy.  Read more here.
[In a Tweet responding to the ICF statement last week, Sen. Yaw said, "If ICF’s name was included without their permission, how many other names were included without permission?  This whole scenario calls into question the validity of the [July 9] letter in any respect."]
Sen. Yaw said the Senate Environmental Committee will be holding further hearings on RGGI in the coming weeks.
There have been multiple hearings and information meetings in the Senate and House already on DEP’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program covering power plants, plus individual discussions with legislators on the issue, starting last October before DEP had a formal proposal.
The Senate Environmental Committee held its first briefing on the RGGI concept with DEP on October 22, just after Gov. Wolf’s October 3 announcement of his executive order directing DEP to prepare a proposed regulation establishing a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program for power plants.
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.
On January 29 the Senate Environmental and Transportation Committees held a hearing with DEP and PennDOT on the impact of the proposed Regional Transportation Climate Initiative on Pennsylvania, which discussed the RGGI concept in part. 
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.
On February 3, DEP Secretary McDonnell appeared before the Joint Senate/House Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee to talk about the potential impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program on coal waste fired power plants.
On March 4, at the Senate hearing on DEP’s budget request, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program was a topic discussed at length with DEP Secretary McDonnell and members of the Appropriations and Environmental Committees.
On March 13, Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant owner Energy Harbor [FirstEnergy] announces it will keep the plant open as long as Gov. Wolf’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Program is adopted.  
Senate Environmental Committee hearings on April 8 and 14 on the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program were postponed by the Senate due to COVID-19 concerns.
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.
On May 7, after several meetings on the issue, DEP’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, voted 9 to 9 with one abstention, on a motion recommending DEP move ahead with its Carbon Pollution Reduction Proposal.
On May 19, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council voted 9 to 4 against recommending DEP move ahead with the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Proposal.
On May 21, the Senate Environmental Committee had scheduled a meeting to consider Senate Resolution 325 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) calling on DEP to cease all work on a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program for power plants, but it was postponed noting it would likely be rescheduled.
On May 22, Sen. Yaw issued a statement critical of New York state for rejecting a pipeline project that would have carried Pennsylvania natural gas to that state, saying, “At the same time as our neighboring states work to stop pipeline development, our own government pushes to join with these states by participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Under RGGI, those states stand to benefit from our power generation, while telling us how to produce that power.”
On June 9, House Republicans moved House Bill 2025 (Struzzi-R- Indiana) out of the Environmental Committee that would take away DEP’s authority to enact any carbon pollution reduction programs.
On June 23, the Senate Environmental Committee held a hearing on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program with DEP and opponents of the plan, going over familiar arguments.
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 22, DEP’s Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee voted 4 to 3 against DEP moving ahead with its Carbon Pollution Reduction Program.
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.
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[Posted: July 30, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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