Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gov. Wolf Vetoes Bill Taking Away DEP’s Authority To Adopt A Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants

As promised, on September 24, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed
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.

Neither the Senate (33 to 17) nor the House (130 to 71) passed House Bill 2025 with a veto-proof majority. 

In his veto message, Gov. Wolf said--

“Addressing the global climate crisis is one of the most important and critical challenges we face.  

“This legislation is extremely harmful to public health and welfare as it prevents the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Department) from taking any measure or action to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change impacts, without prior approval of the General Assembly.  

“Like every state in the country, the Commonwealth has already begun to experience adverse impacts from climate change, such as higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and frequent extreme weather events, including large storms, flooding, heat waves, heavier snowfalls, and periods of drought. 

“ Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are even more significant now as emerging evidence links chronic exposure to air pollution with higher rates of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19. 

“This legislation also prohibits the Commonwealth from participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional initiative among Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while generating economic growth, unless additional legislation is enacted.  

“RGGI participating states have reduced power sector carbon dioxide pollution by 45 percent since 2005, while the region’s per-capita gross domestic product has continued to grow.  

“By joining RGGI, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to make real progress on limiting climate change-causing carbon pollution while generating thousands of new jobs, providing for worker training, and offering future electric bill savings.  

“In addition to the legislation’s failure to address climate change, the immediate effect of this legislation would be to halt a rulemaking package I directed the Department to develop by executive order pursuant to the authority of the Air Pollution Control Act to abate, control, or limit carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electric power generators.  

“The Regulatory Review Act and the Air Pollution Control Act afford the opportunity for extensive public participation, including public comment and public hearings, in the rulemaking process.  

“Members of the General Assembly also have a robust role in the rulemaking process, including through their appointments on advisory committees and the Environmental Quality Board.  

“This legislation creates burdensome and duplicative processes that will thwart the Department’s ability to take any action to regulate the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change in the transportation, industrial, and commercial sectors, as well as the electric power sector. 

“The citizens of this Commonwealth cannot afford to wait any longer.  Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth must take concrete, economically sound, and immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

“Allowing this legislation to become law would effectively deny that climate change is an urgent problem that demands prudent solutions.”

Legislative Reaction

Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana), prime sponsor of the bill, issued this comment on the veto--

“Once again, this governor’s allegiance lies with his own power and his own agenda. Regardless of what the governor says, this bill does not prevent Pennsylvania from joining RGGI. Rather, it ensures the people of Pennsylvania have a say in the decision. 

“It is meant to ensure proper research is done regarding the impacts RGGI would have on jobs, exports and energy prices.  To date, none of that research has been done, and the Wolf administration seemingly has no interest in doing it at any point in the future. 

“My legislation is meant to ensure that the people of Pennsylvania have the opportunity to be heard. So far, they have not. The fundamental principle of American government is that the power lies with the people. Evidently, the governor has forgotten that. 

“To the people of Pennsylvania, to the coal and trade workers who will suffer the effects of RGGI, to the consumers who will pay higher prices for their energy, to our local businesses – I am sorry the governor continues to ignore your voices and your will, as was represented by the affirmative votes cast for this legislation. 

“My interest in this matter does not end here with this veto. Know that I will continue this fight in Harrisburg, and I encourage everyone to voice your concerns to the Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Wolf. We cannot let him take our jobs, destroy our economy, and crush our local communities and families.” 

Sen. Joe Pittman (R-Indiana), prime sponsor of a companion bill in the Senate, issued this statement--

“With his veto of House Bill 2025, Governor Wolf has signed the economic death warrant of the communities I represent. 

“We will continue to explore all avenues, legislative and legal, to prevent the Governor from unilaterally increasing the bills of electricity consumers by $300 million while exporting thousands of good paying family sustaining jobs to other states.”

“It is truly unfortunate that the Governor completely ignored the overwhelming bipartisan support HB 2025 received in the General Assembly.”

Other Reaction

The PA Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund issued the following joint statement on the veto--

“The Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund commend the Governor for vetoing House Bill 2025 and thank him and his Administration for their steadfast leadership to advance pollution limits for power plants. 

“House Bill 2025 would have allowed the General Assembly, through mere inaction, to block any proposal by the Administration to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

“This includes, but would not have been limited to, draft rulemaking now under consideration for Pennsylvania to link with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – a market-based platform that has, for over a decade, proven to both reduce emissions and further economic investment and growth.

“Despite acknowledgment that climate change presents a very real and immediate threat to Pennsylvania, there has been no action taken by the General Assembly to address it. 

“Over a decade ago, the legislature passed a law requiring recurrent climate change impact assessments and policy recommendations be developed, and time and time again the calls generated through those reports – matched by scientists, businesses, the military, investors and more worldwide – have gone unheeded.

“While we encourage legislative engagement on this critical issue, the legislature must commit to action. This includes affirmative steps to reduce emissions, protect communities and public health, help workers, and strategically position Pennsylvania for the inevitable, net-zero energy future. 

“The options and opportunities are there; the days of idleness should be behind us.”

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, issued the following statement-- “I congratulated Governor Wolf last week on the successful Environmental Quality Board vote to advance his carbon limits program forward, and I applaud him today for vetoing a reckless, dangerous piece of legislation in HB 2025 that would have reversed that progress.  

“House Bill 2025 would indefinitely obstruct any and all policy efforts to reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania.  It’s that simple.  

“Supporters deceitfully framed it instead as a mere process bill, one that would give the General Assembly a voice in setting climate policy.  

“This is fundamentally misleading because, under state law, the legislature already has a robust role in the development of regulations and, quite frankly, we know the legislative majority’s position: block progress, deregulate the fossil fuel industry, and drill our way to ‘prosperity.’”

“We applaud Gov. Wolf for doing the right thing in vetoing House Bill 2025,” said Rob Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. “It’s clear that the governor possesses the legal authority to implement a cap-and-invest carbon reduction program in Pennsylvania, and there’s no good reason for the Legislature to attempt to take away that authority. The science is crystal clear: we need immediate and meaningful action to cut our carbon pollution, and implementing a program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is our best chance to accomplish that goal.”

Matt Elliott, Executive Director of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA), issued the following statement on the veto-- “We applaud Governor Wolf’s leadership. For years, Pennsylvania has sat on the sidelines as other states in the region enjoy the benefits of RGGI. 

“The results from participating RGGI states are clear: their economies have grown, their air is cleaner, and their clean energy markets are expanding.

“In Pennsylvania, energy efficiency is already an economic powerhouse. In 2019, nearly 70,000 Pennsylvanians were employed by companies manufacturing high-efficiency products, designing state of the art buildings, retrofitting homes and businesses, and developing and installing cutting-edge energy management software. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of our full clean energy jobs potential.

“RGGI would provide funding to accelerate PA’s clean energy economy in a way that benefits all Pennsylvanians and puts more people back to work in a rapidly growing industry. When we invest in clean energy, all ratepayers benefit from lower utility bills, and all residents benefit from cleaner air.

“This anti-RGGI bill was rushed through Harrisburg with a campaign of misinformation. With this flawed bill out of the way, DEP can continue their important work of crafting a RGGI program that works for PA’s residents and businesses. We applaud the Governor for doing the right thing and moving Pennsylvania forward on clean energy.”

Patrice Tomcik, a Butler County resident and Project Manager for State Campaigns for Moms Clean Air Force, had this to say-- “Moms across the Commonwealth are thankful to Governor Wolf for his veto of HB 2025, which further shows his commitment to reducing climate pollution and protecting the health and future of Pennsylvania’s children. 

“Linking to RGGI will protect our children from the power sector’s dirty air pollution that impacts health and contributes to climate change.

“Pennsylvania’s children and other vulnerable communities deserve to breathe clean air. Reductions in carbon and the associated harmful air pollution from the power sector can improve children’s health. 

“A recent children’s study showed that by lowering harmful pollution from power plants, RGGI has helped to avoid asthma attacks, preterm births, low birth weight, and more. The health benefits were quantified between $191 million and $350 million. 

“In addition, Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI is critical to achieving the Governor’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.”


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).

The Senate passed House Bill 2025 on September 9 and sent it to the Governor for his action.

On September 15, the Environmental Quality Board voted 13 to 6 to approve the proposed regulation establishing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program compatible with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for public review.  Read more here.

Visit DEP’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage to learn more about the proposal.

Related Articles - Carbon Pollution Reduction:

-- EQB Votes 13 To 6 To Approve Proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulations Covering Power Plants For Public Review

-- PEC/EDF: The General Assembly Has Remained Silent On Climate Change

-- Senate Virtual Hearing Covers Familiar Ground On Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants; DEP Expects No Delay In Implementation With Extension

-- Gov. Wolf Sets Goal Of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 80% By 2050 From 2005 Levels

-- Senate Virtual Hearing Covers Familiar Ground On Proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants; DEP Expects No Delay In Implementation With Extension

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

-- House Passes Bill Taking Away DEP’s Authority To Adopt Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants

-- New PA Poll: 72% Of Pennsylvania Voters Say It's Important Their Electricity Comes From Energy Not Creating Carbon Emissions

-- New Poll Finds 79% Of Pennsylvania Voters Support Limits On Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

-- Republican House Members Sign Letter Urging Governor To Halt Efforts To Join Regional Carbon Pollution Reduction Program

-- 18 Senate Republicans Ask Gov. Wolf To Withdrawn His Executive Order Asking DEP To Establish A Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants

-- Pennsylvania, 14 States, DC Sign MOU To Zero Out Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Trucks By 2050 

-- New PEC Podcast: Fmr Gov. Tom Ridge On Conservatives Being Out Of Touch On The Environment

-- Op-Ed: My Fellow Conservatives Are Out Of Touch On The Environment - Fmr. Gov. Tom Ridge

[Posted: Sept. 24, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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