Governor Election Will Decide Pennsylvania’s Membership in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Action in the General Assembly was not enough to stop the publication of regulations to enter Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but legal action could stop it in the future. 

If legal action doesn’t halt Pennsylvania’s entry into RGGI, the outcome of the gubernatorial election could determine whether the Commonwealth stays in the multi-state compact or leaves it by executive order.

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O’Neal Proposes Tax Credit to Offset RGGI Compliance Costs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state Rep. Timothy O’Neal (R-Washington) has indicated he’s drafting legislation to bestow tax credits on power plants to cover costs of complying with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Pennsylvania is among eleven northeastern and mid-Atlantic states to have joined RGGI, a compact to levy de facto taxes on electricity-generation facilities for emitting greenhouse gases — chiefly carbon dioxide and methane — which are associated with global warming. Because Keystone State legislators have balked at the program, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced in 2019 that he would enter the state into it using his own regulatory authority. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Commonwealth Court blocked the state’s entry into RGGI, insisting that Wolf breached the limits on his executive power, but the ruling is not ironclad as the Democrat-run state Supreme Court could reverse it.

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Commonwealth Court Blocks Pennsylvania’s Entry into Carbon Taxation Initiative

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court this week blocked the state’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an 11-state compact requiring de facto taxation of power plants’ carbon emissions.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) tried to effect Pennsylvania’s participation in the initiative by issuing an executive order in 2019, thus neglecting to seek approval of the Republican-led General Assembly. The court’s new opinion comes one day after the state Senate failed to override the governor’s veto of legislation letting the General Assembly end the state’s membership in the compact. Legislative leaders have argued that the governor’s unilateral action violated the state Constitution and were heartened upon hearing of the judges’ decision.

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Pennsylvania Senate Falls Short of Two-Thirds Needed to Kill Greenhouse Gas Initiative

White smoke emitting from a couple of buildings

Most state senators voted to end Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on Monday but fell short of the two-thirds needed to succeed.

In 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) initiated Pennsylvania’s entry into the 11-state compact to reduce carbon emissions by charging power plants for their discharge in hope of counteracting global warming. Unlike most of the other northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that participate in RGGI, the Keystone State’s governor could not get sufficient backing from state legislators for Pennsylvania’s membership and thus acted via executive order. Republicans and some Democrats have argued Wolf exceeded his constitutional authority in rebuffing the legislature.

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State Senator Yaw Proposes Legal Framework for Carbon Capture in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Williamsport) indicated Wednesday he will soon introduce legislation to create a regulatory framework for “carbon capture” in the commonwealth.

Carbon capture is the process of catching carbon-dioxide discharge from fossil-fuel-fired power plants and manufacturing facilities for either reuse or storage so that the emissions don’t make it into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming.

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Industry and Unions Warn Pennsylvania Senate RGGI Will Kill Jobs, Hurt Consumers

Blue Collar Worker

In a rare moment of concord between industry and unions, representatives of both interests exhorted Pennsylvania state Senators on Tuesday to resist Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Eleven states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions have joined the pact to impose prices on carbon emissions for power plants. Unlike most member states, however, Pennsylvania entered into the agreement without legislative approval though an executive order by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in 2019. The emissions pricing has not yet gone into effect; the governor wants to implement it in the next fiscal year.

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Committee Votes to End Pipeline Bans, Check Pennsylvania Governor’s Power on Carbon Tax

A bipartisan majority of a Pennsylvania House of Representatives panel Monday passed several measures to increase fossil-fuel development in and exportation from the Keystone State.

One resolution, sponsored by state Rep. Stan Saylor (R-Red Lion) would call upon Govs. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) and Phil Murphy (D-NJ) to terminate their states’ bans on the building of new conduits that could carry natural gas extracted in Pennsylvania. Other legislation offered by state Sen. Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) would ensure that legislators must approve Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state pact to which Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has committed the state by executive order. Implementation of RGGI entails effectively imposing a tax on carbon emissions.

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Governor Youngkin Says New Report Shows That Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Carbon Tax Passed on to Consumers

Glenn Youngkin

Governor Glenn Youngkin is trying to withdraw Virginia from participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) published a Youngkin-ordered report on the program, which requires utilities to bid on carbon dioxide allowances.

“Costs are soaring for Virginia families and as governor, I pledged to address over taxation and Virginia’s high cost of living. That’s why I signed Executive Order Nine to direct DEQ to examine the impact of RGGI and start the process of ending Virginia’s participation. This report reveals that RGGI is in reality a carbon tax passed on to families, individuals and businesses throughout the Commonwealth – it’s a bad deal for Virginians,” Youngkin said in a press release Tuesday.

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Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Defends Governor’s Budget That Lawmakers Say Overspends

Gregory Thall

Pennsylvania’s House Appropriations Committee ended hearings on next fiscal year’s budget on Thursday, with the governor’s budget chief defending a plan that many lawmakers fear significantly overspends.

Governor Tom Wolf (D) has asked the Republican-controlled General Assembly to consider a Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget that spends $43.7 billion, an increase of 16.6 percent over current expenditures. His proposal assumes the state will enjoy a revenue intake that surpasses that predicted by the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) by $762 million.

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Virginia Senate Kill Key House Republican Bills, but Some Policies Have a Chance in the Budget

Democrat-controlled Senate committees have been killing House Republican bills, blocking policy changes on elections, guns, and the environment. More bills on education, abortion, and taxes are set to be heard in committees that have already killed similar Senate bills. However, even if those bills are killed, some of them still have a chance to be included in the budget.

“There’s still a lot of time left, we got the budget document we’re working on. A lot of our funding opportunities are in the budget,” House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) told The Virginia Star. “A lot of these bills that we’re talking about are in the budget. We took out RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] in our budget.”

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Opposing Greenhouse Gas Initiative Offer Alternative Policy

Lawmakers who have attempted to stop Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are proposing alternative measures to mitigate carbon emissions in the Keystone State.

Representative Jim Struzzi has amended the anti-RGGI legislation he introduced last year to authorize spending $250 million from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Response Restricted Account on carbon-dioxide-reduction technologies and related items. Funded projects would include methane abatement, hydrogen-based infrastructure and stormwater mitigation as well as assistance to communities weathering electric-generation plant closures.

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Gov. Wolf Unveils His Final Pennsylvania Budget Proposal, Urging Massive Spending Hike

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) unveiled his final state budget proposal to the General Assembly yesterday, asking members to approve a 10.9 percent spending increase.

Major items he proposed include $1.75 billion more for public schools and $200 million more for college scholarships. The governor insisted his aims could be realized without resorting to tax rises, though his $43.7 billion plan hinges on the use of about $2 billion in one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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Governor Glenn Youngkin Takes Oath of Office, Promises 11 Immediate Executive Actions on CRT, Masks, Vaccines, and Other Campaign Commitments

Governor Glenn Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares, and Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears took their oaths of office on Saturday afternoon, followed by a howitzer salute from the Army National Guard. Then, Youngkin gave his first speech as governor, with an emphasis on a “common path forward” and with renewed promises from his campaign.

“Our politics have become too toxic. Soundbites have replaced solutions — taking precedence over good faith problem-solving,” he said. “My fellow Virginians, I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good.”

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Outgoing Attorney General Herring Says Governor-Elect Youngkin Can’t Pull Virginia from Key Environmental Initiative

Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion Wednesday saying that Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin cannot pull Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) a program where utilities have to bid for carbon dioxide emissions allowances. Youngkin has said he would use executive action to leave the RGGI. Herring’s opinion says that since Virginia entering the initiative was the result of laws passed by the General Assembly, Youngkin can’t use executive action alone to pull Virginia from the program.

“Climate change remains an urgent and ever-growing threat to Virginians, their safety, their health, and their communities. Virginia’s participation in RGGI is crucial to reducing our carbon pollution, while simultaneously investing hundreds of millions of dollars in mitigation and resilience efforts,” Herring said in a press release

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Youngkin Picks Trump EPA Chief for Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources

Former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will be Secretary of Natural Resources, and former Federal Reserve System Chief Information Officer Margaret “Lyn” McDemid will be Secretary of Administration, Youngkin’s campaign announced Wednesday. Youngkin also announced that Michael Rolband will be Director of Environmental Quality.

“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels. Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable, and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer,” said Governor-elect Youngkin.

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Majority in Pennsylvania House Disapprove of Gov. Wolf’s Efforts to Enroll in Climate Initiative

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has sent a disapproval resolution to Gov. Tom Wolf, rejecting his efforts to enroll the state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but vote totals show there aren’t enough opposing lawmakers to override a veto.

The House approved Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1, 130-70, on Wednesday. The vote total is just short of two-thirds of the chamber’s 203 members necessary to override a veto.

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Landmark Democratic Initiative Virginia Clean Economy Act Under Fire From Republicans

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) is one of the signature pieces of legislation Democrats passed during their control of Virginia’s General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. It set deadlines for utilities to be 100-percent carbon, set energy efficiency standards for utilities, declared that solar and wind are “in the public interest,” created a Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, and brought Virginia into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) a program where utilities have to bid for carbon dioxide emissions allowances.

The day after the act passed out of the House in February 2020, House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) called Democrats’ actions including the VCEA historic, but warned that those bills would have far-reaching impacts, including higher energy prices for citizens and businesses.

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Youngkin Will Pull Virginia Out of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Says He Supports All-of-the-Above Energy Policy

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that he will use an executive order to pull Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an 11-state cap-and-trade initiative aimed at reducing utility carbon dioxide emissions by requiring utilities to bid for carbon dioxide allowances in state auctions. Youngkin’s commitment is one of his first specific energy and environmental policy statements, but he couched it as part of his broader plan to lower Virginians’ cost of living.

“RGGI will cost ratepayers over the next four years an estimated $1 billion to $1.2 billion dollars,” Youngkin said Wednesday to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.. “RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses, and as Governor, I will withdraw us from RGGI by Executive Action. I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning.” 

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