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Governor Wolf Vetoes Energy Choice Bill

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed an energy choice bill on Tuesday, saying the bill would take away local governments’ control over future energy choices.

Senate Bill 275, drafted by State Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), would have protected a future market for Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.

In his veto letter to the state legislature, Wolf said the bill would strip municipalities of the ability to make decisions about energy choices.

“This legislation removes local decision-making from municipalities by pre-empting local control over energy issues and choices,” Wolf wrote. “Specifically, the legislation would limit the tools available to local governments to deal with the global threat of climate change in the years to come and hamper clean energy incentives and initiatives. Furthermore, this bill is unnecessary as the Public Utilities Commission currently regulates the provision of public services in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the language of this bill is too broad and sweeping, which will likely lead to unintended impacts and additional litigation against municipalities and the Commonwealth.

Wolf said the bill is also too broad and sweeping and will likely have unintended consequences for municipalities.

Yaw replied that he was “baffled” by the governor’s decision.

“Governor. Tom Wolf’s baffling veto marks a sad day for Pennsylvania. Energy choice is about giving consumers the power to decide what’s best for them, especially when historic inflationary pressures and soaring utility costs utilities are already pushing many families to breaking point,” Yaw said. “Pennsylvania is second in the nation for natural gas production, and half of our residents don’t have access to it. Pennsylvania – produces a third more natural gas than the entire Russian country. Unfortunately, the Wolf administration does not understand this or the relationship between energy, the economy and the environment. Most blatantly, this administration tells its citizens that the government will make the energy choice for them.

In January 2021, Yaw said in a memorandum to lawmakers that leaving energy policy decisions to municipal entities would “create policy based on an unworkable patchwork of restrictions” and would “deny residents access to different energy resources.”

“My bill will place decisions regarding restrictions on the use of any energy source in residential and commercial energy applications solely within the purview of the state,” Yaw said in the memorandum. “This will ensure that all businesses and homeowners in Pennsylvania have the ability to access energy, whether it’s natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal or otherwise.”

Yaw said state energy policies over the past 20 years have resulted in lower electricity costs for Pennsylvanians, and natural gas development is one of those policies. Changing these policies would cause energy prices to rise, he said.

“Policies limiting the use of certain fuel sources only slow environmental progress and increase energy costs,” Yaw said. “This veto will hurt the most vulnerable among us the most at a time when they can least afford it.”