Democrat Josh Shapiro wants Gov. Tom Wolf’s job, but he’s breaking with the incumbent’s politics — at least on one key energy policy. And now Pennsylvania legislators are responding to the attorney general’s opposition to Pennsylvania entering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
“We need to take real action to address climate change, protect and create energy jobs and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable, and clean power for the long term,” Shapiro said in a statement. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.”
Sens. Gene Yaw (R-23) and Joe Pittman (R-41) reacted in a joint statement.
“Candidate Josh Shapiro acknowledged today that RGGI could have a detrimental impact on Pennsylvania. We only hope that Attorney General Josh Shapiro will look at RGGI in the same light.”
Pittsburgh public radio station WESA reports Shapiro made similar comments to the Indiana Gazette and officials from the Boilermakers’ union.
“He told me he does not stand for RGGI the way it stands right now and he feels it should be run through the Legislature,” said John Hughes, the business manager of Boilermakers Local 154. “We should get everyone to the table and talk about it…. I said, ‘we are going to support the guy who doesn’t support RGGI,’ and he told me, ‘I can’t support it as is.’”
Pittsburgh Works Together, an alliance of labor, business, and civic leaders, is also opposed to RGGI.
“It will lead to significantly higher power prices in Pennsylvania, which will hurt the state’s efforts to rebuild a manufacturing base, and it will adversely affect low-and fixed-income households and seniors.”
Climate activism is believed to be a key part of the Democratic Party’s coalition. Wolf has certainly embraced it, performing a legally dubious end-run around the legislature to force the state into RGGI’s cap-and-trade carbon tax system.
“Climate change is one of the most critical issues we face and I have made it a priority to address ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Wolf said in September after the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRCC) voted 3-2 for Pennsylvania to join RGGI. “By participating in RGGI, Pennsylvania is taking a historic, proactive, and progressive approach that will have significant positive environmental, public health and economic impacts.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cooperative, market-based effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. It represents the first cap-and-invest regional initiative implemented in the United States.
States sell nearly all CO2 allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. The costs of those allowances are felt in consumers’ energy bills.
“RGGI will dive up energy costs, chase away jobs to other states, and do little to nothing to improve the environment,” said Senators Yaw and Pittman. “That has been our position on RGGI since the outset, however, Attorney General Josh Shapiro had the power to stop this as part of the regulatory review process previously, and his office failed to act.”
The senators added Shapiro’s office could have another chance to review this regulation in the future — if the legislature’s efforts to stop this regulation through the concurrent resolution process is unsuccessful.
“We hope the actions of Attorney General Josh Shapiro match the words of Candidate Josh Shapiro if or when he has another chance to put a stop to the devastating impacts of RGGI.”
Other legislators concerned about RGGI include Sen. Bob Mensch. The Republican from Berks, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties told Delaware Valley Journal in September that RGGI endangers Pennsylvania jobs and Wolf needed approval from the legislature.
“With RGGI, the argument is it is environmental and the legislature should not be involved in that according to the governor,” said Mensch. “I think it’s way too much power placed in the hands of the governor because you have one person who will have control over the pricing of energy, the placement of jobs, and that is way too much-concentrated power.”