Senator Yaw’s Response to the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board

On June 24, 2021, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board opined that “RGGI will reduce carbon emissions and bring millions to Pennsylvania.”

RGGI, at best, is a superficial, feel good undertaking to the chorus that says the solution to all environmental issues is to target and eliminate fossil fuels. RGGI attempts to target a very small sector of our energy production, namely coal fired electric generation power plants. And, we are going to do this by joining with 12 other states who will have a vote on the allowances which Pennsylvania will have permission to sell. These approved allowances will supposedly produce the “millions” which will benefit Pennsylvania.

There are a few important facts which anyone looking into the issue might want to consider before making a knee-jerk reaction that RGGI is a benefit to the residents and workers in Pennsylvania. First significant CO2 reductions have been achieved through state-of-the-art technology in every aspect of the energy sector here in Pennsylvania. As a result of those efforts, emissions from fossil fuel power generation in the state have been reduced by 38% since 2002. In fact, emissions in the U.S. are the lowest they have been since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

According to the editorial, Pa DEP projects a CO2 emission reduction of “at least 25.5% by 2030. However, according to modeling by PJM, the organization which directs electric distribution throughout the mid-Atlantic states, CO2 reductions by joining RGGI are estimated to be 0.89% or 0.0089 by 2030. Modeling involving the Eastern Interconnection estimates CO2 reduction by 2030 of 0.168% or 0.00168. Not surprisingly, DEP no longer speaks of RGGI as a way to reduce CO2 emissions or as a climate change issue but now bills RGGI as a health issue.

The editorial states that RGGI will bring “millions” into Pennsylvania. Fine, but where to those “millions’ come from? The answer is that the millions will come from those who pay for electricity in Pennsylvania. Based on information from PJM and the Energy Information Agency, Pennsylvania residents and businesses are looking at rate increases from 12 to 18 percent. What high energy use businesses will be attracted to Pennsylvania? The answer is none. What high energy businesses will stay in Pennsylvania? To be fair, the answer is probably few.

Those supporting RGGI conveniently overlook the impact of “leakage”. Assuming RGGI has its intended effect of closing Pennsylvania coal fired power plants, the likely effect is that the lost production will be picked up by West Virginia and Ohio. In fact, estimates are that as much as 86% of the electricity produced by Pennsylvania power plants will be picked up by plants in surrounding states. These states are not in the Ozone Transport Region and do not comply with Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) like Pennsylvania plants. Essentially, the net result to the environment is an increase in NOX and SO2. How is that a benefit to Pennsylvania or the environment?

Pennsylvania is an energy rich state. Low cost energy attracts manufacturers who are heavy energy users. Curtailing low cost energy by forcing closure of coal fired power plants and the elimination of the thousands of jobs associated with them simply means the jobs will leave PA and probably the U.S. In those areas of the world where our manufacturing jobs are going – the primary energy sources is coal. And it is clear, those foreign countries do not operate with the same environmental oversight as those in the U.S. and particularly Pennsylvania. Again, how does that benefit the environment?