Gov. Tom Wolf 007

Gov. Tom Wolf (Gazette file photo)

Gov. Tom Wolf will not change his mind about his executive order including Pennsylvania in the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“The administration is not considering suspending the implementation of RGGI in Pennsylvania,” Wolf press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said in response to a letter signed by more than 50 state lawmakers, including every state House member serving Indiana County.

“We respectfully request you to rescind your Executive Order No. 2019-7, which directs the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to submit a proposed rulemaking to the (state) Environmental Quality Board to establish a ‘carbon dioxide budget consistent in stringency to that established in the Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative (RGGI) participating states,’ and halt Pennsylvania’s regulatory efforts to join RGGI,” the letter read.

Its signers include Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana; House Majority Leader Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, whose district covers much of eastern Armstrong County; and Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene County.

The trio also are among principal sponsors of House Bill 2025, which along with Senate Bill 950 are aimed at reversing the commonwealth’s entry into RGGI, a self-proclaimed “first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Kensinger gave the same answer to the Gazette on April 24, in response to a similar letter from 18 state senators also seeking a reversal of Wolf’s Oct. 3, 2019, executive order.

That group is led by Sens. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana; Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming County; and Dave Argall, R-Schuylkill County, who in turn are primary sponsors of SB 950. Both bills would require legislative approval before Pennsylvania could impose a carbon tax, but both remain in the respective Environmental Resources and Energy committees of the two chambers of the General Assembly.

Pennsylvania would join Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont in RGGI, which has as its goal “to cap and reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from the power sector.”

In line with Pennsylvania’s bid to enter RGGI, DEP drew upon modeling results put together by ICF International, a consulting firm that works closely with the initiative.

“Notably,” the lawmakers wrote, the modeling results would mean “the near immediate closure of coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania combined with a significant electric rate increase for consumers.”

In fact, the letter continued, “the ICF modeling indicates a devastating 89 percent decrease in coal generation in Pennsylvania from coal-fired power plants within the next 18 months, which suggests that any revenues from participation in RGGI will result from a tax on gas generation.”

However, they wrote, “while the ICF modeling shows the effective elimination of coal-fired power generation in Pennsylvania, the model unfortunately does not show a commensurate decrease in CO2 emissions across the PJM,” a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

The House members said they believed Wolf “intended for DEP, in the development of the proposed regulation, to embark on a ‘robust public outreach effort’ far beyond the bare statutory minimum required under the Regulatory Reform Act and the Air Pollution Control Act.”

Unfortunately, they said, DEP has failed to do so “and given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, there is no way for DEP to conduct meaningful public outreach adequate to ensure the voices of impacted workers, communities and businesses to be heard prior to the development of the proposed RGGI regulation.”

Fifty-five others also signed the letter, including Reps. Cris Dush, R-Brookville; Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City; and Joseph Petrarca, D-Vandergrift, who all represent parts of Indiana County.

“As DEP’s ICF modeling results prove, RGGI will cause significant harm and the impacts on Pennsylvania communities will be felt immediately and indefinitely,” the House members concluded. “Yet, in 2030, and according to ICF, regional CO2 levels will remain largely unchanged. These facts, combined with the inability of these communities’ and workers’ voices to be heard for the foreseeable future, we urge you to consider this request to rescind Executive Order 2019-7 immediately and to direct DEP to halt its regulatory proceedings.

“Doing so will remove a significant point of disagreement between your administration and the General Assembly in the months ahead and, instead, will enable all of us to focus our time and effort toward overcoming the devastating impacts from COVID-19 to the Pennsylvania economy.”