Monday, December 21, 2020

Op-Ed: Keep Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative On Track

By Rep. Greg Vitali

Climate change is the most serious long-term threat to this planet and Pennsylvania is a significant greenhouse gas producer.  The most important thing Pennsylvania can do right now to combat climate change is to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 

RGGI is a ten-state cap and trade program designed to reduce greenhouse emissions from the electric power sector. 

Legislative efforts threaten Pennsylvania’s attempt to join RGGI and these efforts must be resisted. 

A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization confirms that  “climate change continued its relentless march in 2020, which is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record.”

In addition, “the report …shows how high-impact events including extreme heat, wildfires and floods, as well as the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, affected millions of people.”  

Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest carbon dioxide emitting US state and about 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from its electric power sector- mainly coal and gas-fired power plants. 

In October of 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf attempted to address these emissions by directing the development of regulations for Pennsylvania to join RGGI. [Read more here]

RGGI was established in 2009 and currently there are 10 participating Mid-Atlantic and New England states. 

RGGI is described as a cap-and-trade program because a “cap” is put on a state’s overall power sector carbon dioxide emissions. This cap shrinks over time allowing less and less emissions. 

Electric power producers must purchase carbon emission allowances at RGGI’s quarterly auctions or elsewhere. These allowances can be freely “traded” on the open market. Participating states invest the proceeds from these auctions in energy efficiency and clean energy.  

The proposed Pennsylvania regulations would set its carbon cap at 78,000,000 tons in 2022 (roughly its current amount of emissions). This cap would shrink about 3 percent each year until 2030 reducing Pennsylvania carbon emissions by about 31 percent between now and then.

These regulations are currently under consideration by Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board. The EQB is accepting public comment on them until January 14.  [Read more here]

The goal is for the EQB to approve these regulations by the fall of 2021 and for Pennsylvania to  participate in RGGI starting in 2022. 

In addition to addressing climate change, joining RGGI will also provide economic benefits to Pennsylvania. In fact, these benefits are already being felt. 

Because of Gov. Wolf’s decision to join RGGI, Energy Harbor Nuclear Corporation rescinded its decision to deactivate its two Beaver Valley nuclear units, saving 1000 jobs. 

Additionally, independent experts at Analysis Group, a large economic consulting firm, have shown that between 2009 and 2017 RGGI created 45,000 job-years of work. 

Unfortunately, RGGI is opposed by powerful interest groups in Harrisburg, including the PA Coal Alliance and the AFL-CIO. 

A bill to block Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI (HB 2025) passed both the State House and Senate by substantial margins in the legislative term that just ended. 

Happily, Governor Wolf vetoed this bill. [Read more here]

Similar legislation is anticipated in the upcoming term which Wolf is again expected to veto. The real battle for RGGI will be the veto override vote.  

To keep RGGI on track it’s necessary to prevent both legislative chambers from getting the two thirds vote needed to override the Governor’s veto. 

The composition of the incoming legislature suggests this would be a close vote. 

It’s important for Pennsylvanians who care about climate change to let their State Representative and Senator know how they feel about RGGI and hold them accountable for how they vote.  

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

Rep. Greg Vitali represents the 166th legislative district in Delaware & Montgomery County.

Related Articles - RGGI:

-- Clean Power PA Coalition: 95% Of Commenters At EQB Hearing On Proposed Power Plant Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulation Hearings Supported The Proposal

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

-- Report: Clean Energy Is A Leading Creator Of New Quality Jobs In Pennsylvania

-- DEP Senate Budget Hearing: Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Closing Without RGGI, We Have To Confront This Issue, Help Workers, Communities

Related Articles This Week - Climate:

-- PA Will Experience 42% More Days Of Extremely Heavy Precipitation By 2050 Due To Climate Change

-- Op-Ed: DEP Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Not About Climate Change - Sen. Langerholc & Rep. Rigby

-- Op-Ed: PA Needs More Jobs, RGGI Will Create Them By Investing In Energy Efficiency - Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance

-- 3 States, D.C Sign On To Regional Transportation Climate Initiative: PA Does Not Sign, But Commits To Individual Actions To Reduce Climate Changing Emissions From Transportation

[Posted: December 21, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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