Sen. Yaw Votes to Disapprove Wolf RGGI Tax on PA Energy Producers

HARRISBURG – Arguing that the rhetoric is vastly different from the reality, state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) today voted to disapprove a Wolf Administration regulation that would impose a tax on Pennsylvania energy producers by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“The reality is this is a carbon tax being imposed without legislative approval,” said Sen. Yaw, chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “The reality is that we have nothing in common with RGGI states – states that need natural gas but continually block efforts to build the infrastructure needed to get clean-burning, Pennsylvania natural gas where needed.”

Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 disapproves the Wolf Administration regulation that paves the way for Pennsylvania to join RGGI, a collaboration of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that sets a cap on total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. No other RGGI state has joined the coalition without the approval of that state’s legislature.

RGGI states have the top four highest electric prices in the continental U.S. and eight of the top 10. According to data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and studies from Penn State and the PJM Interconnection, the electric grid operator for 13 states and the District of Columbia, RGGI will increase electric rates by as high as 18%.

“RGGI will significantly raise electric rates, which affects our most vulnerable populations such as low-income and seniors,” Sen. Yaw said. “If ever there was a regressive tax, RGGI most certainly is it.”

According to modeling by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and PJM, there will be a .89% reduction in CO2 emissions in the first 10 years under RGGI. Other models show even smaller emission reductions.

“The reality is that as the result of state-of-the-art technology, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power generation has been reduced by 38% since 2002 – more than all RGGI states combined. RGGI is a license to pollute by allowing polluters to buy credits and continue to pollute,” Sen. Yaw said. “RGGI promotes air pollution by sending thousands of jobs to states and foreign countries which have far fewer environmental standards than those here in Pennsylvania. RGGI bases its purported monetary benefit on the philosophy that pollution must continue rather than on a philosophy based on solving problems.”

Sen. Yaw said that when environmental benefits of RGGI could not be shown, DEP switched to alleging health benefits.

“The reality is that great improvements have already been achieved in ambient air quality in Pennsylvania,” Sen. Yaw said. “With the standards being met at the vast majority of monitoring sites, the conclusion is that further emission reductions by PA electric generators due to RGGI will not produce the benefit calculated by DEP.”

On Oct. 3, 2019, Gov. Wolf directed the DEP to join RGGI with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

To comply, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance” for each ton of CO2 they emit. Pennsylvania would be the only state in the compact with a substantial number of coal or natural gas power energy production facilities and the only one to join the compact without legislative approval.

Lawmakers have strenuously opposed the governor’s edict since the beginning, citing that it overstepped the administration’s powers by usurping the legislature’s exclusive powers to impose taxes and that the carbon tax would devastate local economies and cost thousands of jobs.

For more state-related news and information, visit Sen. Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.