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Is Shapiro Shifting Stance on RGGI?

A single paragraph of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recently-released budget is already proving to be among the most controversial.

Tucked inside the nearly 1,000 pages of Shapiro’s executive budget proposal is an indication the state will likely embrace the controversial Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as part of the governor’s “environmental protection and management” goals.

RGGI is touted by green activists as “a cooperative, market-based effort” among a dozen East Coast states “to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.” The program uses a system of “allowances” to clamp down on the amount of CO2 that power plants in member states can emit.

Advocates insist the program is a necessary part of the effort to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and head off catastrophic climate change. Critics say it is an expensive boondoggle that will drive up energy costs for working families and give too much power over the energy sector to state regulators.

Efforts to conscript Pennsylvania into the program have stalled. The Commonwealth Court last year blocked then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to implement RGGI in the state, leaving the program’s future here uncertain.

During his campaign for governor, Shapiro expressed skepticism about RGGI’s feasibility. “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,” he said in October 2021. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.” Shapiro’s willingness to resist pressure from his party’s progressive base on RGGI sent a message to moderate voters that he was a more centrist Democrat, not part of his party’s fringe.

Now in office, it appears Shapiro may be pivoting to the left on RGGI, though notably, he did not directly mention the program in last week’s budget address before the Pennsylvania legislature.

His office told the DVJournal the governor has not flipped on the issue, and that Shapiro is merely exploring the program as one possible route for addressing environmental concerns. RGGI, a Shapiro official noted, remains tied up in the courts with its future uncertain.

Energy and policy experts, meanwhile, said Shapiro’s apparent intent to follow RGGI could bring pain for Pennsylvanians already reeling from high inflation and price hikes for basic necessities.

Jeff Nobers, the executive director of the industry advocacy group Pittsburgh Works Together, told DVJournal that joining RGGI would be a “disaster” for Pennsylvania.

“We are a major exporter of electricity, and we help keep the lights on in much of the eastern half of the country,” Nobers said. “Gov. Shapiro said during the campaign that RGGI was not the right policy for Pennsylvania, and we have no reason to believe he has changed his mind.”

Nathan Benefield, the senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, said RGGI is “effectively a tax that will increase home electricity prices by 30 percent.”

“Rising energy prices are a top concern for Pennsylvania voters, who are struggling with the increased cost of living and looking for our elected leaders to work together with energy-producing companies to lower the cost of utility bills,” Benefield said. “Shapiro’s continued push for Wolf’s electric tax hike will only make matters worse.”

Shapiro’s office told DVJ the program’s provisions in the budget fall under the state’s Clean Air Fund, and that it would be inaccurate to call any money raised via that mechanism a tax.

The program’s possible adoption in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has drawn cheers from progressives.

“We have a clear and present opportunity to supercharge the state’s clean energy economy by maximizing benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act and implementing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to build a cleaner, more equitable future for all Pennsylvanians,” Jackson Morris, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund told NPR.

The governor’s budget projects upwards of $663 million brought into state coffers via RGGI enforcement.

RGGI, meanwhile, is facing pushback in at least one other member state, with Republicans in Virginia earlier this year attempting to withdraw from the initiative via the state legislature.

That effort was ultimately defeated by Virginia Democrats, though the state’s Air Pollution Control Board has indicated it will seek a regulatory path to withdrawal.

Pennsylvania and Virginia are the only states involved with RGGI in which their respective legislatures are divided between Democrats and Republicans. Only one state, New Hampshire, has the GOP in control of both legislative chambers; all others are controlled by Democrats.

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Midterm Election Dominated DVJournal’s 2022 Coverage

Looking back at 2022, the most significant stories the Delaware Valley Journal covered involved the midterm election.

The primary campaign for governor and lieutenant governor on the Republican side brought out many candidates. In contrast, on the Democratic side, only Josh Shapiro ran for governor while a few Democrats contested for the lieutenant governor’s nomination. Many Republicans supported Shapiro, who ran as a moderate.

The race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) drew several candidates in both parties. Democrats fielded Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke during the campaign, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, Philadelphia state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Philadelphia physician Kevin Baumlin, and western Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb.

Among area Senate candidates, conservative author and commentator Kathy Barnette, Montgomery County businessman Jeff Bartos, Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto, and Montgomery County lawyer Sean Gale all took part in a debate sponsored by the DVJournal that was broadcast on Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick duked it out, spending massive amounts on television ads. With former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Oz prevailed by a slim margin, only to lose in the general election to Fetterman. Fetterman’s poor showing in a late October debate failed to move the needle since many voters had already cast their ballots via mail-in voting before seeing it.

The DVJournal also sponsored an online debate for Republican lieutenant governor candidates.

The wide field of men and one woman running for the Republican nomination for governor also debated several times. State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) came out on top in the primary despite a last-minute play by party leaders to back former Congressman Lou Barletta. Locally, Delaware County businessman Dave White made a strong showing and Chester County attorney Bill McSwain enjoyed the deep-pocket financial support of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.

Shapiro, who spent millions on television commercials to paint Mastriano as an extremist, went on to handily win the governor’s race. Many believe redistricting in the Delaware Valley collar counties gave the Democrats a new advantage. Democrats defeated several incumbent Republicans, notably Todd Stephens in Montgomery County, Chris Quinn in Delaware County, and Todd Polinchock in Bucks County.

Other 2022 stories in the region included the saga of private utility companies buying up municipal sewer and water authorities. The DVJ has highlighted Pennsylvanians’ likely higher energy bills with Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), despite opposition from the state legislature.  And the state’s crucial Marcellus Shale natural gas industry remains under assault from the Biden administration’s embrace of the Green New Deal.

This year, many other DVJournal articles focused on parents who are at war with “woke” school boards and school administrators who impose critical race theory (CRT) and gender-fluid ideology on their students and critical race theory (CRT) and gender-fluid ideology on their students as well as stocking school libraries with obscene books.

The Delaware Valley Journal also brought readers the saga of the state House versus progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner that culminated in the House voting to impeach Krasner for mishandling of his official duties, which they allege is a significant factor in the skyrocketing crime rate in the city. An impeachment trial for Krasner is set in the Senate for Jan. 18.

While crime has been a big issue for DVJournal’s 2022 reporting, inflation was also a hot topic with skyrocketing prices for gas, food, and other goods biting into Delaware Valley residents’ budgets.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision weighed on the election, causing a rise in Democratic voter registration and driving some women, particularly women in the Delaware Valley suburbs, to the polls. Conversely, the increase in arrests of pro-life activists by the Biden Department of Justice has stirred up passion on the other side of the abortion issue.

And the local reaction to the war in Ukraine is also a concern, with many Ukrainian immigrants living in the area. DVJournal also brought our readers letters from a Ukrainian mother about what it was like to live in that war-torn country.

Amid all the other news vying for attention, the DVJournal has kept its eye on the sad case of the death of Fanta Bility, the 8-year-old girl hit by a bullet fired by police officers. Three Sharon Hill officers pleaded guilty in that case, and a federal lawsuit brought by Bility’s family is pending.

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TOMB: Latest RGGI Lawsuit Highlights Increases in Electricity Prices

Already struggling to cope with higher energy bills, Pennsylvanians are now experiencing double-digit rate hikes this fall. In September, some suppliers increased electricity prices another 19 percent, citing inflation and energy costs. Pennsylvanians need relief, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral action will drive energy bills even higher. Worse yet, a new lawsuit highlights how Wolf’s plan—while claiming to help the environment—will, in reality, increase emissions.

Despite a majority opposition from the state legislature, Wolf is forcing Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a compact in which member states impose a carbon tax on energy production. By discouraging energy production in Pennsylvania, the carbon tax would shut down some of the most efficient coal and natural gas operations in the world, and a new lawsuit argues that the governor’s plan will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions.

The petitioners, all of whom operate gas-fired power plants in Bucks, York, and Westmoreland Counties, are among the dozens of businesses, labor unions, trade organizations, and politicians asking the court to stop Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI.

Pennsylvania natural gas producers are among the cleanest in the world, as measured by methane emissions from their operations. Of the top nine hydrocarbon-producing basins in the United States, the Appalachian Basin, which includes Pennsylvania, emits the least methane per unit of energy produced.

And while U.S. coal-fired plants are among the least polluting worldwide, Pennsylvania operators have invested billions of dollars in equipment to further reduce water and air pollution. The Homer City power plant, for example, spent $750 million over the past decade on reducing pollutants.

But RGGI would undo our progress toward cleaner energy by imposing prohibitive costs on Pennsylvania energy producers.

RGGI requires power plants to purchase carbon allowances, and those have more than quadrupled in recent months. For just a portion of 2022, estimated allowance costs have risen to $847 million from the Wolf administration’s original forecast of $198 million.

“The (administration’s) modeling of the price of CO2 allowances…was wildly off base,” wrote the petitioners. “Among other failures, the (administration) did not adequately consider the impact of speculative traders, like hedge funds, purchasing CO2 allowances as an investment.”

Costs imposed by RGGI will force Pennsylvania plants to decrease energy production, opening the door for less efficient plants in non-RGGI states to replace them. Overall emissions will increase because less efficient plants must burn more fuel to produce the same amount of electricity—generating higher emissions of carbon dioxide and pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

The petitioners note that “most of the benefits…arising from Pennsylvania joining RGGI will be lost or shifted to other areas due to increased emissions in other states.”

Prior studies have confirmed that transfer of emissions from RGGI states to non-RGGI states.

Quadrupling carbon allowance prices also means that RGGI will further inflate electricity costs. Energy producers will have to pass the increase in costs to consumers.

Moderate estimates see RGGI increasing consumer electricity prices by roughly $2 billion over nine years. This is a “best-case” scenario that Pennsylvanian families cannot afford.

RGGI is currently on hold thanks to a preliminary injunction, and the petitioners are integrating their lawsuit with other cases aimed at stopping the state’s participation. Due to pending court action, it is unlikely that companies will need to purchase carbon allowances until the next governor’s term.

But Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI—with its far-reaching consequences—shouldn’t rely on lone-wolf tactics. The state legislature has taken the first step toward introducing a constitutional amendment that would prevent any governor from unilaterally imposing regulations, like RGGI, despite legislative disapproval.

If approved by the legislature and a majority of Pennsylvania voters, this constitutional amendment could safeguard families from ineffective and expensive regulations like RGGI.

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Commonwealth Court Issues Injunction Blocking Wolf’s RGGI Move

Opponents of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are celebrating after the Commonwealth Court granted an injunction Friday suspending the state’s implementation.

“This delay is an important, much-needed step for Pennsylvania residents and businesses,” says Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Luke Bernstein. “We appreciate the court pressing pause on this policy, which threatens to significantly increase energy prices at a time of high inflation, while also pushing more economic activity to states on our grid who are not in RGGI.”

Bernstein says businesses and families are already facing high energy prices due to a lack of supply and infrastructure.

“This is an opportunity for policymakers to embrace abundant domestic energy production, facilitate building new infrastructure, support competitive markets, and set long-term policies that encourage innovation.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is also concerned that Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI, not to mention the Wolf administration’s unilateral and unconstitutional push to put the state in RGGI without going through the legislature.

“NFIB is thrilled the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has granted a preliminary injunction to Gov. Wolf’s unconstitutional energy tax,” said Greg Moreland, NFIB Pennsylvania’s state director. “For years, our members have complained about rising energy costs, and with inflation at 8.6 percent, RGGI may have been the nail in the coffin for energy-intensive small businesses.

Like the state Chamber, NFIB Pennsylvania hopes the governor will come to the table and negotiate with the legislature.

“We all want a clean environment,” says Moreland. “We just have different beliefs on how to achieve that goal.”

Gordon Tomb, Senior Advisor for the CO2 Coalition, says schemes such as RGGI do little more than transfer wealth from taxpayers and consumers to the special interests of wind and solar.

“Technologies that are expensive and unreliable,” adds Tomb.

Pointing to a recent Caesar Rodney Institute analysis, Tomb says billions of dollars have been poured into these so-called green energy sources with the only reduction in CO2 emissions coming from the expanded use of natural gas.

“As providers of energy and as stewards of the environment, RGGI’s favored technologies are abject failures.”

RGGI bills itself as a cooperative, market-based effort among northeast and mid-Atlantic states to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

“It represents the first cap-and-invest regional initiative implemented in the United States,” RGGI boasts on its website.

Wolf has wanted Pennsylvania in RGGI for years. As of 5 p.m. Friday, Wolf had not issued a press release or tweet about the Commonwealth Court injunction. However, he has stated on several occasions that state participation in RGGI is needed to help combat man-made climate change.

“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” Wolf said in 2019 after an executive order instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join RGGI. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound, and immediate steps to reduce emissions, (so), joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) filed a friend of the court brief in Commonwealth Court saying Governor Wolf’s carbon tax on Pennsylvania energy generation will “irreparably damage” the state’s manufacturing, industrial, and commercial base.

“The new tax, pursued over the objections of the General Assembly, will also result in sharp increases in energy rates for consumers,” the groups noted.

Even unions have expressed concerns about RGGI.

“Thousands of blue-collar, union workers who build, operate, and maintain those plants will be lost,” says the Power PA Jobs Alliance, a coalition of labor, management, and consumer stakeholders that oppose state proposals that impose carbon dioxide emissions taxes. “Nearly 100 percent of CO2 reductions from Pennsylvania power plant closures will be offset by increased CO2 emissions in non-RGGI states, like Ohio and West Virginia, which will absorb Pennsylvania generation, emissions, and jobs into those states whose plants are not subject to the tax.”

As for Wolf’s argument that RGGI is necessary to combat climate change, Tomb disagrees.

“There is no climate emergency, and the theory that we are somehow threatened by carbon dioxide emissions is absurd on its face,” said Tomb. “Carbon dioxide is a harmless gas that each of us exhales on a daily basis, about two pounds of it on a daily basis, so it is ridiculous.”

The CO2 Coalition examined the governor’s proposal for RGGI and found that there was no scientific basis for it.

“Number one, there is no threat from carbon dioxide or whatever to the climate,” Tomb said. “Secondly, even if there were, the governor’s proposal RGGI would have virtually zero effect on the weather.”

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PA Treasurer Garrity Joins Lawsuit Opposing Wolf’s RGGI Push

Pennsylvania’s state treasurer is throwing her two cents into a lawsuit opposing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“RGGI is a massive, illegal tax disguised as a regulation,” Treasurer Stacy Garrity said in a press release.

The lawsuit was filed in the Commonwealth Court on April 25 by a coalition of energy companies and unions. They argue Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI will drive up prices and harm jobs.

Garrity agreed.

“If it’s allowed to be implemented, energy prices for every Pennsylvanian will skyrocket–and thousands of our good, family-sustaining jobs will be lost,” said Garrity.

Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI has been a hotly-contested issue for years. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) took executive action in 2019 instructing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to put Pennsylvania in the multi-state compact. Politicians, think tanks, and special interest groups say Wolf should have gone through the legislative process.

“The governor unilaterally entering RGGI without any legislative approval is a direct insult to democracy,” state Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) told DVJournal last year.

Wolf ignored the complaints. The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) went on to vote 15-4 to adopt the final regulation that would bring the state into a regional agreement among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. It sets a cap on total carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation in those states. Generators will purchase credits–effectively a carbon tax–per ton of emissions through auctions.

“The Wolf administration is trying to use the regulatory process to avoid seeking legislative approval for its scheme to impose limits on the operation of electric generators, but our state constitution is clear,” Garrity said this week. “The power of taxation belongs to the General Assembly, not to the unelected and unaccountable members of the EQB.”

As a result, Garrity says she is “proud” to stand with Pennsylvania’s energy companies and the unions who “represent many thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians.”

Unions and energy companies are not the only ones concerned about RGGI. Organizations including the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Pennsylvania have been speaking out against RGGI. Several appeared before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in April to testify on the concerns about RGGI’s economic harm, particularly among small and independent businesses already facing higher prices and supply chain issues.

Greg Moreland of NFIB PA said the concerns remain. NFIB told DVJournal Wednesday he believes the EQB did not conduct a complete analysis of the regulation on small businesses as required by the Regulatory Review Act (RRA).

“Every other state that has entered RGGI has obtained legislative approval,” Moreland said. “The governor and the EQB do not have the authority to enact a carbon tax, and this is a tax. NFIB is fully supportive of efforts that acknowledge the constitutional powers to tax only come from the General Assembly.”

Time is of the essence. Wolf, who is a lame duck, has stated on several occasions that Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI is needed to combat man-made climate change.

“Climate is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” said the governor.

Delaware Valley Democrats agree that is the case. State Sen. Katie Muth (D-44) has also argued reducing emissions will improve public health.

“Efforts to block Pennsylvania from joining RGGI only put our environment, health, and economic security at risk,” she wrote in an op-ed.

Still, Garrity and others argue that economic security is at risk of jobs being killed as a result of RGGI.

“The taxes imposed by these unlawful regulations will directly harm miners, electrical workers, welders, and fabricators,” said Garrity. “Once lost, these jobs may never return, (so) the Court should act quickly to prevent irreparable harm done to Pennsylvania’s electric generation industry and its thousands of workers.”

Pointing to a report last fall by Independent Fiscal Office, Garrity said Pennsylvania’s carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 37 percent over the last decade without the regulatory burden of RGGI.

Companies and unions involved in the lawsuit include those with coal interests, natural gas, and oil-burning power plants in Pennsylvania, United Mine Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

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PA Business Groups, GOP Still Pushing Back Against Wolf’s RGGI Move

Pennsylvania may now be in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but Republican politicians are not giving up their opposition to the cap-and-trade system.

“We stand by our position that entering an interstate compact and imposing a carbon tax on Pennsylvanians requires legislative approval–not unilateral action by the governor,” state  Sens. Jake Corman (R-Centre/Juniata/Mifflin), Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), and Gene Yaw (R-Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union) told Delaware Valley Journal. “Although we are disappointed in this temporary setback, we will continue to press our argument to the court that the administration cannot legally take further steps to join RGGI.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a carbon cap-and-trade program among mostly-blue northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

The battle began in October 2019 when Gov. Tom Wolf (D) took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Protection (DEP) to join the RGGI. Wolf said that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and generate economic growth.

“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Wolf. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound, and immediate steps to reduce emissions, (so) joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Wolf took to Twitter to celebrate Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI.

“It’s official,” said Wolf. “I’m proud Pennsylvania is on the path to becoming a leader in the fight against climate change through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

Penn Future President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo applauded the move.

“Finalizing this transformative climate policy is a victory for all of Pennsylvania and future generations,” Bonomo said in an article on “Pennsylvania is responsible for 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 1 percent of global emissions. This cap-and-invest program will deeply cut into Pennsylvania’s pollution by limiting what comes from our dirtiest power plants.”

Gordon Tomb, senior fellow for the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, said he believes RGGI will do more harm than good.

“Gov. Wolf has acted consistently against the interests of working Pennsylvanians, whether it is his attempt to impose a 30 percent tax on Pennsylvania’s electricity bills, his arbitrary closures of businesses during the pandemic, or his siding with special interests opposing education choice,” Tomb told Delaware Valley Journal. “RGGI will raise taxes on Pennsylvania consumers during runaway inflation and produce no environmental benefit.”

Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture of business and labor, also sees problems.

“It’s very unfortunate that we have reached this point as DEP’s own analysis shows that there will be virtually no change in carbon emissions in 2030 in the PJM service area as any reductions in Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions are offset by increases in neighboring non-RGGI states,” Jeff Nobers, executive director for Pittsburgh Works Together told Delaware Valley Journal. “This is by executive order, not the will of the people or consent of the legislature, and will lead to increased energy costs further hurting lower-income families, the loss of thousands of good-paying union jobs, and no meaningful reduction in emissions.”

Other groups that are opposed to Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI include National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA)

In March, Melissa Morgan of NFIB Pennsylvania told a Senate committee higher energy prices are the last thing small business owners need at this time.

“Small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and many are still struggling,” Melissa Morgan, assistant state director of NFIB Pennsylvania, told a Senate committee in late March. “Shutdown orders, a lack of workforce, supply chain disruptions, record-high inflation, and a recovering economy have devastated a sizable segment of Pennsylvania’s small businesses.”

Carl A. Marrara, PMA vice president of government affairs, warned that RGGI would cause industries to relocate.

Marrara said it is “not a stretch” to say supporting RGGI is supporting Russian and Middle Eastern global energy leadership and Chinese steel dumping. He called for a market-based approach.

RGGI could be an issue in this year’s gubernatorial election, and not just for Republicans seeking that office. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has also skeptical of RGGI.

“I refuse to accept the false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet — we must do both, and my priority will be ensuring Pennsylvania has a comprehensive climate and energy policy that will move all of us forward,” said Shapiro in an October 2021 statement.

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UPDATE: Court Stops Wolf Admin From Imposing RGGI Rule

Just one day after the GOP-controlled state legislature failed to stop Gov. Tom Wolf from pushing Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a state court has stopped the regulation from taking effect, “pending further order of the court.”

Republicans were delighted.  

“The court’s action is a welcome step in the right direction,” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford). “It’s prudent to press pause on RGGI, given the administration’s gross underestimations of how much it will inflate electricity costs for all Pennsylvanians. We need to pursue climate solutions that encourage collaboration with our energy sector, not regressive and unconstitutional taxes meant to destroy it and leave us reliant on foreign oil and gas for decades to come. I look forward to further court action on this matter and continuing our fight to protect Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity.

Before the court’s ruling, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said it was absurd for Pennsylvania to increase taxes on people and the commonwealth’s energy resources when inflation and gas prices are skyrocketing. 

“We are trying to help Pennsylvanians manage through the economic fallout from COVID-19, not to mention the effects of the current state of affairs globally,” said Ward. “Instead, Pennsylvania Democrats voted to increase Pennsylvanians electric bills by 30 percent, eliminate 22,000 homegrown jobs and increase the cost of everyday products with no significant environmental benefit.”

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Harleysville) said “radical senators” ignored warnings last week from the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) that RGGI would increase consumer electricity costs by $800 million.

“If the courts do not stop the RGGI tax, it will become the most regressive tax in Pennsylvania history,” said Pennycuick. “This is the last thing that families and seniors need who are already struggling to make ends meet with historic inflation, including household energy bills and skyrocketing gasoline prices.”

RGGI is a regional carbon cap-and-trade program among mostly-blue northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Wolf has been fighting to force Pennsylvania into the compact since 2019 when he issued an executive order directing the state’s entrance into it.

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing last week on the IFO’s warnings about RGGI’s economic harm. Still, Democrats, including Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), support RGGI.

“In Pennsylvania, it’s been a years’-long process with more review, comment, and study than any other initiative in memory,” said Comitta. “RGGI has more than a long history of economic success.”

Since 2008, RGGI states cut power sector emissions in half, reduced electricity prices, and outpaced the nation in economic growth, all while creating $4 billion in net economic gains and nearly 50,000 job-years of employment, Comitta asserted.

Committa said RGGI prices “account for a small portion–a sliver, really–of what makes up an electricity bill.”

“While electricity rates are already rising across the country, during the first 10 years that RGGI was in place, rates dropped nearly 6 percent in RGGI states, and in those states, RGGI energy-efficiency investments of $2.8 billion have produced nearly $13.5 billion in consumer energy savings” or a return of nearly $4.80 for every dollar invested.

“Do my colleagues who oppose RGGI have a plan, a new plan to address climate change, rising energy costs, the decline of coal-fired power plants, and impact to their workers and communities? I am not aware of one,” she said.

Comitta also cited a letter from businesses in Pennsylvania that support RGGI, including Nestle, Mars Incorporated, and British Petroleum (BP).

Sen, Katie Muth (D-Montgomery), another committee member, backs RGGI. Muth has long argued that reducing emissions will improve public health.

“Efforts to block Pennsylvania from joining RGGI only put our environment, health, and economic security at risk,” she wrote in a 2020 Op-ed.

But labor and business leaders say jobs are on the line.

Kris Anderson, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Third District, told the committee there was a “dramatic reduction” in jobs in the electric generation sector in neighboring states that enrolled in RGGI.

“We can be assured that Pennsylvania would suffer a similar fate,” said Anderson. “The Cheswick Power Plant has announced it will cease operations by the end of this month (and) with that announcement, 50 people will lose their job, Forty-two of those workers are IBEW members.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is also concerned.

“Small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and many are still struggling,” said Melissa Morgan, assistant state director of NFIB. “Shutdown orders, a lack of workforce, supply chain disruptions, record-high inflation, and a recovering economy have devastated a sizable segment of Pennsylvania’s small businesses.”

“The incidence of price hikes on Main Street is clearly on the rise as owners pass on rising labor and operating costs,” and RGGI would accelerate that, she said.

“Employers continue to operate with minimal staff and higher labor and material costs, all while struggling to reopen to pre-pandemic levels,” said Morgan. “Should small businesses continue to struggle and close their doors in communities across the state, Main Streets will suffer, state and local tax bases will collapse, and more workers will lose their jobs.”

Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) also testified against RGGI. Carl A. Marrara, vice president of government affairs, warned RGGI would cause industries to relocate.

Marrara said it is “not a stretch” to say supporting RGGI is supporting Russian and Middle Eastern global energy leadership and Chinese steel dumping. He called for a market-based approach.

Yaw supports the litigation from Senate Republicans to “protect Pennsylvania from economic ruin.”

“The Democrats’ delusional support for RGGI will cost 22,000 jobs and ruin real lives without ever making a dent in air quality,” said Yaw. “We cannot allow this administration to squander Pennsylvania’s legacy as an energy leader while simultaneously duping 13 million residents into paying for the state’s economic demise, all under the guise of lowered emissions.”


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STEIN: Looking Back at DelVal News for 2021

“There is a Chinese curse which says May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind,” Robert F. Kennedy said in 1966.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, the country and the Delaware Valley have been living in “interesting times,” to say the least. Everything from shopping to education to sports has been seen through the lens of COVID, and whether it might lead one to contract it or would mitigate the virus.

Local and state governments collected numbers and issued mandates. Schools were locked down, reopened, and some locked down again. One of the biggest political stories the Delaware Valley Journal covered in 2021 was the rise of parent power. Parents objected to COVID lockdowns and masks at school board meetings, parents opposed to Critical Race Theory, and shocked parents asking school boards to remove what they deem as pornographic books from school libraries, along with school boards limiting parents’ free speech rights.

This also gave rise to election victories for school board candidates who promised not to shut down schools again and the successful statewide political strategy of Back to School PA PAC, which gave about $700,000 to back those candidates’ campaigns.

Another big story this year is crime and violence in Philadelphia, arguably driven by progressive prosecution—or lack thereof—by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office headed by DA Larry Krasner, who was re-elected in November. As of this writing, 555 people were victims of homicide in Philadelphia in 2021—a horrific new record.

At the state government level, voters sent a clear message to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in May when they approved ballot initiatives limiting his emergency powers. It was a also the year when amazing numbers of Republican candidates began vying for the governor’s seat in the 2022 primary, along with similarly large  fields of hopefuls of both parties seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. The Senate race, which may tip the balance of the Senate, could become one of the most closely-watched political contests in the U.S.

The 2021 election process in some DelVal counties also came under fire as delays, mistakes, and mail-in ballots caused consternation.  That has also been a huge issue nationwide since former President Donald Trump questioned the validity of the election process that resulted in his defeat in the swing states, including Pennsylvania. And a lawsuit was filed against Delaware County officials alleging malfeasance in the handling of the 2020 election there.

Another statewide issue in the DelVal Journal was Wolf’s unilateral plunge into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a move that will undoubtedly limit Pennsylvania’s job growth and drive up energy costs for businesses and residents.

RGGI is supposed to reduce greenhouse gases by an auction process for power producers and industrial plants in 12 states, which buy credits to offset emissions. But those other RGGI states are not energy producers like Pennsylvania, with its wealth of natural gas.

And we have closely followed the controversy over the $6.1 billion Mariner East II pipeline. Some residents who live in the vicinity of the pipeline along with public officials have fought the pipeline, while overlooking clear benefits from the pipeline for employment, safety over rail or truck transport, and reduced energy costs. Luckily, for the economy of the DelVal region those efforts appear to have failed and the project is on track for completion.

Locally, Hurricane Ida hit some DelVal areas hard with flood damage as streams overflowed their banks while tornadoes pummeled parts of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

National issues of inflation and supply-side woes also affected the Delaware Valley region as the Biden administration’s energy and regulatory policies began to be felt here.

In Norristown, the DelVal Journal broke a story regarding Norristown Area School Board President Shae Ashe sending sexually suggestive messages on social media to an underage Norristown High School girl. In the wake of those articles, Ashe resigned from the board and, although he was re-elected, did not return to it.

In Delaware County, the new Health Department, promised by Democrats who were elected to a majority in the county council in 2019, is taking shape and expected to open in 2022. It will cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million its first year.

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YAW: RGGI Fails Pennsylvania on its Most Basic Promise

I’ve sounded the alarm over the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in many public settings over the past several months. This undertaking, an executive fiat ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf, will impact the life and wallet of virtually every Pennsylvanian and deliver almost nothing in terms of improved air quality.

At the outset, the stated purpose of RGGI is to reduce greenhouse gases. In theory, this works through an auction that is open to power producers and industrial plants in 12 states that buy “credits” to offset the excess emissions their facilities generate. The proceeds from the auction sales are then distributed to various government programs, the majority of which have nothing to do with the environment.

The current RGGI states include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. They will control the amount of credits Pennsylvania can sell at auction and, as an inevitable consequence, will dictate many decisions affecting our environment and economy.

In reality, RGGI forces Pennsylvania to undermine its own position as a top energy producer and hand over economic control to a collection of states that bear little resemblance to us. This is troubling when we consider that New England would prefer to buy natural gas from Russia rather than permit the construction of a pipeline that would connect their region to Pennsylvania’s plentiful supply.

Eight RGGI states report some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. In some RGGI states, residents pay double the rates paid by Pennsylvanians. According to a study done by PJM, the operator of the 13-state power grid which controls the flow of our electricity, RGGI will cause an 18 percent increase in rates – nine times larger than the spike the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) claims will occur through 2030.

DEP hails the projected 2 percent reduction in rates seen in other states as proof that RGGI works. This is misleading, at best, when we consider that those residents pay 50 percent to 75 percent more for electricity compared to Pennsylvanians. A 2 percent decrease when rates are nearly twice as high translates into a negligible savings – if at all – in Pennsylvania.

In 2019, the state predicted that clearing prices for the credits bought at auction would not rise above $3 per ton. RGGI’s most recent auction, completed on Dec. 1, set a clearing price of $13 per ton – more than four times the rate DEP forecasted and a 40 percent increase over the Sept. 8 auction clearing price alone. At current prices, the Wolf RGGI scheme translates to an approximately $750 million annual tax on Pennsylvania consumers.

It gets worse. According to DEP’s own modeling, 90.1 percent of the emissions reduced in Pennsylvania will be offset by increased pollution from non-RGGI states in our electric grid. A similar report by Penn State University shows that 86 percent of the electric capacity lost in Pennsylvania under RGGI will be replaced by increased coal-fired generation in neighboring non-participating states.

Make no mistake, RGGI depends on continued pollution. Without it, there would be no need for credits. With no need for credits, there is no market and thus no one would need to participate in RGGI’s auctions. So, rather than curbing environmental air pollution, RGGI depends on continuing it.

Some estimates forecast that in the first decade of RGGI, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions will be less than 1 percent. This is despite the fact that, due to state-of-the art technology, CO2 emissions in Pennsylvania from fossil fuel generation have already been reduced by 38 percent since 2002 – more than all RGGI states combined.

A DEP presentation on July 22, 2020 indicated that great improvements had been achieved in ambient air quality in Pennsylvania. How did this great news in July become such a problem that only RGGI could fix just a few months later? The answer is politics.

RGGI targets coal-fired electric generation plants and the thousands of skilled trade jobs these facilities support. States, and even countries, with far fewer environmental controls in place than those in Pennsylvania, will absorb those jobs. Why would we close highly regulated Pennsylvania electric plants and send that generation capacity and those opportunities elsewhere?

No matter how its viewed, RGGI is not good for the environment or the economy of Pennsylvania.

RGGI supporters conveniently ignore that RGGI will leave thousands unemployed, skyrocket electricity bills for everyone – including our most vulnerable populations – and serve as an unauthorized carbon tax implemented without legislative approval. It’s just another way that the current Administration wants to bypass our government’s fundamental checks and balances to further policy goals that harm the very residents they mean to help.

In its simplest terms, RGGI fails miserably in accomplishing its only stated purpose.

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MASTRIANO:  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Will Haunt PA Long Into the Future

Pennsylvania is an energy powerhouse. We are the nation’s number three energy producer, number three coal producer, and the number two natural gas provider. Not only do we meet our own energy needs, but we also meet the needs of other states that depend on us to keep their own energy grids up and running. Sixty plants powered by fossil fuels account for over 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s electric generation.

It may make some sense for legislators in the 11 states who joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to support the pact. After all, those states do not come close to the number of electricity production facilities we have here in Pennsylvania. Those states will not have to deal with the effects of rising consumer prices, plant closures, and job loss on a mass scale.

The carbon tax imposed by RGGI will result in immediate job loss across our energy sector. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, all five remaining coal power plants will be shuttered within a year of enactment. Not only will those workers be out of the job, but so will many of those in the coal production business which feeds into these power plants.

As companies look to invest in future natural gas facilities, are they going to invest in Pennsylvania or instead invest in states like Ohio and West Virginia who will not be subject to RGGI’s burdensome regulations and taxes?

The acceleration of Pennsylvania’s booming energy industry has been a blessing to our state. Many of our coal and natural gas energy production plants are in economically distressed communities. These areas were decimated as Pennsylvania’s manufacturing base shifted overseas in the past few decades.

Counties like Indiana, Fayette, and Montour have seen energy industry jobs provide a lifeline to the community. We are told by proponents of RGGI that those who are soon to lose their jobs will have to find jobs elsewhere such as in the renewable energy sector. There is no guarantee of that industry providing anywhere near the same amount of positions and pay that are enjoyed by fossil fuel energy sector workers. We all remember the failure of Solyndra in 2011 after being propped up with millions from the federal government. Renewable energy jobs cannot be relied on to replace the damage of RGGI.

Immediate job loss will not be the only negative impact of RGGI. Like all taxes, the carbon tax will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity rates. A report by the Penn State Center for Energy Law and Policy found that consumers would pay up to $2 billion more in electricity costs over nine years.

Energy costs in the U.S. are already up by 25 percent compared to last year. Inflation in the economy as a whole has compounded the struggles of lower and middle-class families. We cannot afford to make high energy costs permanent by entering RGGI.

Supporters of RGGI say that billions in revenue from the carbon tax will be generated for the general fund and “re-invested” into struggling communities. I would much rather have money kept in the pockets of the everyday people as opposed to being subject to misguided spending by legislators and bureaucrats.

Lastly, RGGI will have adverse implications for national security. Crucial American allies in Europe rely on Pennsylvania natural gas imports to offset dependence on imports from the predatory government of Russia.

For example, vulnerabilities in the face of a more hostile Moscow include economic blackmail due to heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas. To counter this threat, nations like Lithuania and Poland built Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals as a way to reduce dependence on Russian energy. Due to cost and accessibility, most of the LNG imported thus far has come from Norway.

Imports from the United States began in 2017 and European leaders hope to expand the amount of LNG they purchase from Pennsylvania in the future. RGGI’s carbon tax to stunt the natural gas industry will make that quite difficult.

Some will say that any of the aforementioned adverse effects of RGGI pale in comparison to the cost of inaction to combat climate change. But Pennsylvania has already been making steady progress to limit CO2 emissions.  According to the Consumer Energy Alliance, emissions in Pa. have dropped by 18 percent since 1990. Any further drops in emissions resulting from RGGI will be negligible. Fossil fuel-powered energy plants will simply relocate to less restrictive states and release the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Every RGGI participant state joined the pact after receiving approval from their respective legislatures. Governor Wolf, as he has done throughout his tenure, acted unilaterally to join our state to RGGI  after not getting what he wanted from the General Assembly.

This sets a dangerous precedent. The General Assembly is the body that is closest to the people of Pennsylvania. No Governor, regardless of political party, should have unchecked unilateral power to impose a tax and enter our state into such a consequential interstate pact. This week, the state Senate acted by voting to disapprove the regulation to join RGGI. Next up is a vote in the House of Representatives. Following passage there, Gov. Tom Wolf will presumably use his veto pen and a legal battle in the courts will ensue.

One thing is for sure. RGGI will do far more harm than good.