Pennsylvania and RGGI: Let’s Advance the Discussion – and Action

John Walliser, Senior Vice President – Legal & Government Affairs

Yesterday the Environmental Quality Board voted to advance a proposed rulemaking for Pennsylvania to link with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to public comment. After initial review by the state Attorney General, the public will be afforded the opportunity – through public hearings and submission of written comment – to weigh in.

PEC supported this outcome. Not only because we believe carbon pricing is one of the most sensible steps to take in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also because it represents a tangible step forward – even if procedural at present – and one that is long overdue.

Despite acknowledgment, often tacit, that climate change presents a very real and immediate threat to Pennsylvania, there has been no action taken by the General Assembly to address it. In 2008 the legislature passed a law requiring recurring climate impact assessments and policy recommendations be developed, and time and time again the calls generated through those efforts have gone unheeded.

Many hearings have happened, and we’ve been thankful to have had the chance to participate in several of them, but we are no further along than we were at the start of this legislative session in 2019. Or the session before. Or the session before that. And so on.

The consequences are far ranging. Not only with what we can and should do to reduce emissions, but also how we can best position our communities and economy in the ongoing energy transformation – one that will potentially leave Pennsylvania behind. Like climate change, it’s already happening.

Without question, linking to RGGI is only one of many policy actions needed to point Pennsylvania toward a ‘net zero’ energy future. But what it does is start the commitment. It also provides the means through market proceeds to kickstart essential emission reduction technologies like carbon capture, attract further business investment, deploy renewable energy, expand energy efficiency and consumer programs, and help communities and workers.

All things we should be doing more than just talking about.

Yesterday’s vote can be marked as a step toward securing a more promising energy future, one beyond a status quo predominated by limitations – in other words, greater attentiveness on what we “can’t” do. If we are to tackle climate change, everything should be on the table, and action must be taken. The options and opportunities are there; the days of idleness are not.

We commend the Governor for moving the rulemaking proposal forward, and call on the General Assembly to bolster this effort by expanding the programs and incentives supported by RGGI participation. There’s more work to be done of course – a Clean Energy Standard, reduction of emissions in transportation and commerce, grid modernization, et cetera – but let’s not lose the moment to build on the steps taken yesterday. Let’s move forward.