When Action Means Inaction

Photo: Wikimedia user bestbudbrian (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

If you follow PEC, you know that we have been focused on decarbonizing Pennsylvanias energy production in general and laser focused on getting the state to join RGGI – the Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative.

Pennsylvania needs a multi-faceted, all-of-the-above approach to decarbonization. And we need to ensure that firm, dispatchable power remains a part of our energy supply. RGGI, as a market-based solution, works within these parameters and with current and anticipated federal policy, as well. In fact, RGGI can help Pennsylvania jump ahead of other states in leveraging federal dollars and luring clean energy business growth.

The Governor and DEP have advanced the Commonwealths participation in RGGI. It is ready to go.

EXCEPT… On October 27th Pennsylvania Senate leadership passed a resolution to block the states proposed rulemaking to link with RGGI. Now, the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee is expected to take up that resolution, even though they passed a similar measure in September. This is all part of a procedural ploy to block Pennsylvania from taking what is really the first of a number of steps needed to get Pennsylvania to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The majority of Pennsylvanians want affirmative policies to drive emission reductions. Even in light of this demand, and of the most recent record severe-weather events in the Commonwelath – tornadoes in the west and flooding in the east —  the leadership of the General Assembly seems dead set on blocking action (already taken in 11 neighboring states) that will better position Pennsylvanias economy for the energy transition that is already happening in order to mitigate climate change.

Further, they are not offering any other options or approaches.  Rather, the arguments are focused on ignoring current and future realities of the energy markets.

Doing nothing solves nothing – leadership in the legislature needs to work toward solutions.

This is an untenable situation. Pennsylvanias emissions of greenhouse gases are rising, and  will accelerate in the electric generation sector unless we act to preserve and expand zero- and low-emitting sources (which can include natural gas and coal with carbon capture technology).

Pennsylvanias aging coal generation facilities have and will continue to close. Without revenues from programs like RGGI, impacted workers and communities will not have the means to recover or adapt. Energy prices are volatile, particularly when there are not enough diverse market forces due to an over-reliance on coal and natural gas. States participating in RGGI have experienced greater reductions in energy prices and stronger GDP growth than non-participants. In Pennsylvania, clean energy job growth outpaces that of fossil-based employment and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Investors, insurers, and utilities are turning away from from heavily emitting sources of power generation and Pennsylvania cannot ignore or escape that reality. RGGI and its investment opportunities provide the means to address all of these issues, but we must take those steps.

Acting on climate is no longer tomorrows problem. Doing nothing solves nothing – leadership in the legislature needs to work toward solutions. The Senates vote against RGGI was yet another step in the wrong direction.