HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – Today, Republican state lawmakers spoke out against the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI.
RGGI seeks to cap and reduce power sector emissions by imposing fees and a declining limit on carbon dioxide emissions for qualifying power plants. In a House Republican Policy Committee hearing this morning, lawmakers and some business leaders said it’s an unconstitutional tax that will drive up costs and hurt small businesses and manufacturers.
“Manufacturing depends on energy- large volumes of affordable, available energy. To have this tax, to destroy our generation capacity, to destabilize the grid, to make energy unaffordable so our manufacturers are less competitive, this is just catastrophic all across the board,” said David Taylor, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, at a press event following the hearing. “It is 180 degrees from what good public policy should be for Pennsylvania. Maximizing domestic energy production is what will help our economy, help our people reduce prices for consumers and uphold our quality of life,” Taylor added.
Taylor says Pennsylvania is one of America’s foremost energy producing states, adding that officially joining RGGI, could threaten grid stability.
“Pennsylvania is the number one exporter of electricity in America. We power the grid. And for this tax to go into effect, to render our coal fired power plants uneconomical and to destroy a big chunk of our baseload capacity, it threatens the stability of the grid itself and our ability to avoid blackouts,” said Taylor.
Republican lawmakers have consistently argued that joining the multi-state consortium would do the economy, and the environment, more harm than good.
“The reason we’re fighting it is because of the job loss, is because of a loss of opportunity and economic development. It’s because of the loss of security for our nation and because it’s bad for our environment,” said Rep. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. “One of the major issues that we have- if you’re concerned about carbon emissions- is pollution from China and Russia. Jacking up demand to those places, by destroying our ability to manufacture here in Pennsylvania, is exactly what will happen,” Kail added.
Former Democratic Governor Tom Wolf spearheaded the effort to join with an executive order in 2019. The effort was met with opposition by Republicans who challenged Pennsylvania’s participation in court. Despite ongoing litigation in state courts, RGGI remains a key and contentious issue as budget negotiations heat up.
House Democrats used their razor thin majority to pass their version of the budget last week, which is over one-billion dollars more than what Governor Shapiro proposed in March. Both the House Democrats’ and Shapiro’s budget include RGGI and the more than $650 million in revenue it is estimated to bring in.
“It does appear very plainly to anticipate $650 million of new revenue from RGGI, which only comes from the consumers of electricity. Why the governor chose to reflect those numbers in his budget, I think is something I found to be a mistake on his part,” said Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, who provided a budget update to the press this afternoon. “I still think that that policy is wrong for Pennsylvania,” he added.
It’s now up to Pittman and the GOP-controlled upper chamber to determine how to move forward with the $46.4 billion spending plan sent over by the House last week. Whether RGGI remains in that plan could depend on negotiations between the administration and leaders of the House and Senate. It could also depend on active litigation.