HARRISBURG, Pa. — Editor's Note: The above video is from Nov. 30, 2021.
Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a Pennsylvania Senate resolution today that he says will delay critical climate action in the commonwealth. According to a press release from the governor's office, Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 would have eliminated Pennsylvania's ability to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
RGGI is an organization made up of eleven northeastern and mid-Atlantic states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia) that aims to reduce carbon emissions in the power and electricity industries.
Through RGGI, power plants have a limit on the amount of emissions they can produce. If they use up their greenhouse gas credits, they must buy more credits from other states in the program. The idea is that power plants are forced to reduce their carbon emissions if they do not want to spend more money on credits. Plus, states who do not produce as many emissions can sell off their credits for extra profits used to invest in new renewable energy projects.
This so-called "cap and trade" program would be made possible by Pennsylvania Regulation 7-559, which authorizes a CO2 Budget Trading Program. The concurrent resolution vetoed by Gov. Wolf today would have blocked that regulation, therefore blocking the main agreement between participating RGGI states.
The press release also noted the concurrent resolution is "procedurally defective," since the Pennsylvania General Assembly did not adopt it within a predetermined time limit.
"Final Form Regulation 7-559 authorizes Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) under the authority of the Air Pollution Control Act," said Gov. Wolf. "While the Republican-controlled General Assembly has failed to take any measures to address climate change, by joining RGGI, my Administration will take a historic, proactive, and progressive approach that will have significant positive environmental, public health, and economic impacts."
The governor has faced multiple hurdles in trying to officially join RGGI.
In 2019, he signed an executive order to do just that, but legislative battles have prevented Pennsylvania from quickly adopting the program. As today's veto proves, that legislative tension is still brewing.
State Republicans and some Democrats oppose the initiative due to fears it will hurt coal-centered communities and drive up energy prices. Even Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is poised to take the Democratic ticket for next year's gubernatorial elections, has expressed opposition to RGGI.
Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest CO2 emitter in the U.S., but its reliance on fossil fuels to support the economy leaves workers in the industry fearful of losing their jobs.
Still, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says the commonwealth's future involvement in RGGI will create more than 30,000 jobs and "will lower Pennsylvania's CO2 emissions by between 97 and 227 million tons by 2030." The Wolf Administration also said RGGI could contribute $131-187 million dollars annually to Pennsylvania; commonwealth officials say they would use that revenue to help communities transition away from fossil fuels.
If it survives any potential future legal holdups, RGGI is supposed to go into effect sometime this year.