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Pennsylvania House approves bill to handcuff Wolf over RGGI

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A bill that would block Gov. Tom Wolf’s controversial order to bring Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) passed the state’s House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The measure, which was approved 126-72, is now heading to the Republican-controlled state Senate, where it is expected to pass without issue.

The House vote came after the bill, HB 637, passed through the state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on Monday and was the subject of sobering analysis. released on Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Independent Tax Office, which predicted that bringing the Commonwealth into RGGI would cause consumers’ electricity bills to nearly quadruple.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-171) said after Wednesday’s vote that joining RGGI would let taxpayers hold the bag for what Republican lawmakers have long viewed as a carbon tax that won’t would do little more than increase costs for consumers. “Pennsylvanians shouldn’t be forced to pay more because of the Wolf administration’s bad energy policy that would embroil Pennsylvania in an expensive multi-state carbon tax program,” he said.

The RGGI program is a pact aimed at eliminating a significant part of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions; it obliges northeastern member states to participate in a carbon trading market that limits carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants by requiring the purchase of carbon credits through a regular auction. Pennsylvania would be the 11th state and the only electricity exporter to join the ranks of the RGGI. Wednesday’s bill specifically prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from making any regulations that would establish the required carbon trading program in Pennsylvania without receiving General Assembly approval.

Environmentalists said legislation passed Wednesday would make it nearly impossible to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by requiring the General Assembly to approve any attempt by the DEP to regulate carbon emissions. HB 637 “would remove DEP’s most important tool for mitigating climate change: the ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” said Mark Szybist, senior counsel at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Wolf used an executive order in 2019 to bring Pennsylvania into the RGGI rather than seek approval from the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans who view attempts to cut carbon emissions as an unacceptable risk to jobs and tax revenues generated by power plants and fossil fuels. fuel industry. The GOP has strongly insisted that the RGGI amounts to an energy tax and that tax increases must be implemented after the General Assembly.

“The legislative control provided for in this legislation would ensure that Pennsylvanians will no longer be forced to shoulder the burden of unilateral authority from an executive branch that responds more to political ideology than to their best interests,” Benninghoff said. .