09.24.2020

Wolf vetoes bill that would have limited controls on carbon emissions

By Paul J. Gough

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday afternoon vetoed a bill that would have kept Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or other efforts to reduce carbon emissions without approval of the General Assembly.

House Bill 2025, which passed both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate, would have required the Department of Environmental Protection to have a public comment period and submit to the General Assembly for approval anything that would use a tax or fee to reduce or limit carbon dioxide emissions.

The House voted 130-71 in July and the Senate 33-17 in September to send the measure to Wolf. Some southwestern Pennsylvania Democrats, including state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Pittsburgh, and state Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Mt. Lebanon, joined with Republicans in favor of the bill.

In his veto message, Wolf said the bill ignored the realities of climate change and would hamper its efforts to deal with that or join RGGI. The Wolf administration wants to join RGGI, which is a regional cap-and-trade program of states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

“This legislation is extremely harmful to public health and welfare as it prevents the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from taking any measure or action to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change impacts, without prior approval of the General Assembly,” Wolf said.

It also said the legislation would have kept DEP from controlling or limiting emissions from fossil-fuel power generation stations.

“This legislation creates burdensome and duplicative processes that will thwart the department’s ability to take any action to regulate the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change in the transportation, industrial and commercial sectors, as well as the electric power sector,” Wolf said.

Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, took issue in a statement with the governor’s contention that it would keep Pennsylvania from RGGI.

“Rather, it ensures the people of Pennsylvania have a say in the decision,” Struzzi said. “It is meant to ensure proper research is done regarding the impacts RGGI would have on jobs, exports and energy prices. To date, none of that research has been done, and the Wolf administration seemingly has no interest in doing it at any point in the future.”

Struzzi said coal and trade employees impacted by RGGI are being ignored.

“We cannot let him take our jobs, destroy our economy, and crush our local communities and families,” Struzzi said.

But several environmental groups, including PennFuture, applauded Wolf’s veto.

“It’s clear that the governor possesses the legal authority to implement a cap-and-invest carbon reduction program in Pennsylvania, and there’s no good reason for the Legislature to take away that authority,” said Rob Altenburg, director of PennFuture Energy Center. “The science is crystal clear: we need immediate and meaningful action to cut our carbon pollution, and implementing a program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is our best chance to accomplish that goal.”

This article appeared on the Pittsburgh Business Times website at https://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2020/09/24/wolf-vetoes-rggi-bill.html

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