Monday, February 22, 2021

The Facts In Response To Republican ‘Takeaways’ From DEP Budget Hearing

As is their practice,
House Republicans posted these "takeaways" from the February 22 DEP budget hearing.  

All the takeaways dealt with DEP’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction program covering power plants consistent with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is interesting given the other issues discussed. Read more here.

Here are some facts to consider in response.

-- IRRC Comments: Republicans said, "Last week, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) called for a one-year moratorium on the implementation of Wolf’s mandate that Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and questioned the Environmental Quality Board’s authority to impose such a regulation. Despite this call, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell testified that the department plans to push ahead and publish a rule by the end of the year."

MISLEADING: At this stage in the regulation review process the IRRC puts together all the significant comments it receives from anyone on a regulation and asks DEP to respond to them.  The IRRC did not call for a "moratorium."  What the IRRC actually said is DEP should consider delaying implementation of the regulation-- importantly NOT the adoption-- to allow time for businesses to adjust their plans related to the rule.  Read more here.

LEFT OUT: Of course, Republicans left out the part where the IRRC recommended MORE environmental protections be added to the proposal to further protect public health, safety and welfare of citizens.  Read more here.

-- Closure Of Coal-fired Power Plants: Republicans said, "Remarkably, when asked if he was concerned about the job loss associated with the closure of power plants, McDonnell replied, “It’s not a matter of if, but when these plants close.”

CREATIVE EDITING: Secretary McDonnell actually did say, "It's not a matter of if, but when plants close," but what was not captured was the reason-- because of market competition with natural gas and renewable energy sources.  

The Pennsylvania coal industry has told the Senate and House 19 coal plants have already closed, including the state's largest, as a result of competition with natural gas.  Read more here.

What the Republicans did not say is Gov. Wolf has proposed an Energy Communities Trust Fund to help workers and communities transition to new employment opportunities, something that has not happened before. Read more here.

Republicans have only recently become very concerned about closing the remaining coal-fired power plants, ironically since Gov. Wolf proposed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Program.

-- Higher Electricity Costs/Job Loss: Republicans said, "As House Republican’s work on the Commonwealth’s COVID comeback, we believe new regulatory schemes that result in higher electricity prices and job loss are the wrong direction for Pennsylvania. Under RGGI, residential customers would see electricity prices increase 11 percent according to data from the Penn State Center for Energy Law and Policy."  "When asked if a senior citizen on a fixed income will see their electricity rates increase, McDonnell replied, “yes.”"

MORE TO IT: Secretary McDonnell did say electric rates will rise, but he also said then they will fall.  The complete story is retail electric rates will rise by about 1.5 percent in the short term [Read more here] and then decrease as the use of electricity is expected to fall by about 6 percent by 2030, if the proceeds of the allowance auction under the proposed program are invested wisely.  Read more here.

In past testimony in the Senate, Secretary McDonnell has said, “With sound investments of auction proceeds by 2030, this proposed rulemaking would lead to an increase in Pennsylvania's gross state product of $1.9 billion, and a net increase of more than 27,000 jobs in this Commonwealth.”  Read more here.

These economic benefits are in addition to an estimated annual public health benefit of between $230 and $520 million per year.  Read more here.

Visit DEP's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative webpage for more information.

Related Articles:

-- House Budget Hearing Fails To Address A Single Critical Budget Issue Faced By DEP Or DCNR 

-- DEP Budget Testimony: DEP Works Through The Pandemic, Public Demands Action To Address Climate Change

-- Cap-Star: House Appropriations Republican Chair Stan Saylor To DEP: What Assurance Do You Have PA Citizens ‘Aren’t Going To Die Like They Did In Texas?’ [Saylor Repeated Baseless Claim Frozen Windmills Were Cause Of Blackouts; PJM Already Said A Texas Blackout Is Not Likely Here]

[Posted: February 22, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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