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Yaw not wavering on Greenhouse gas initiative

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, remains unconvinced that the state’s joining with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is in the best interests of Pennsylvania.

The local lawmaker met earlier this week with the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee to discuss the initiative put forth by Gov. Wolf and to consider pending legislation unrelated to that issue.

Yaw, who chairs the committee, said the state isn’t on the same page with other RGGI states such as New York and New Jersey.

“We are going in partnership with states not friendly with us marketing our natural gas. Every one of those states has denied permits and pipelines for gas,” he said.

Yaw referred to the state as a net exporter of energy.

Pennsylvania, he said, should not simply surrender much of its control for production of natural gas to those states. The state has more in common with non-RGGI and gas-producing states such as Ohio and West Virginia and perhaps should be working with them on some other type of plan.

“We could do a greenhouse gas initiative on our own,” he said.

RGGI would require participating states to implement the plan through a regional cap-and-trade program involving CO2 emitting electric power plants. Power plants would purchase a credit or allowance for each ton of CO2 they emit. The purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI.

Yaw said he’s not unconcerned about greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.

But he noted that since RGGI began trading allowances in 2009, the current nine RGGI states have reduced carbon emissions by 17 percent, while Pennsylvania has reduced carbon emissions by 28 percent — without government mandates.

He considered whether the governor might back off from RGGI if he could successfully push forth a gas severance tax for the state.

And, he said he too could support a severance tax under the right circumstances.

“It has to be a tax that is not onerous or hurts gas companies and our municipalities are benefiting from it,” he said. “Would I talk about it? Absolutely.”

However, Yaw said he could not back a severance tax at the expense of losing the gas impact fee.

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