Yaw calls out greenhouse gas initiative, talks rising opioid deaths

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, speaks to the Sun-Gazette editorial board on Wednesday. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

According to one local lawmaker, residents of the region will pay higher electric bills if a greenhouse gas initiative isn’t blocked.

State Sen. Gene Law, R-Loyalsock Township, recently spoke out against the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a compact of 10 states including Pennsylvania to reduce gas emissions from the power sector.

RGGI calls for states to set regional caps on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Carbon-emitting plants would purchase allowances at state-run auctions to emit carbon, with one allowance required for each ton of carbon emitted and proceeds from allowances used by the state to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

“Ninety-nine percent of people have no idea what it (RGGI) is,” said Yaw, who has repeatedly criticized the initiative.

He said RGGI will result only in rising electricity prices while doing virtually nothing to reduce emissions.

Gov. Wolf issued an executive order directing the state Department of

Environmental Protection to join RGGI.

“The question is, why are we doing this. What’s the benefit?” Yaw said.

Yaw, who serves as chair of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, said there exist other means of reducing the state’s carbon footprint.

“We should cut down on emissions,” he said. “I absolutely believe in climate change. It’s been going on and will continue to go on.”

Other conservation efforts have Yaw’s support: legislation being pushed by Yaw includes bills addressing agricultural conservation practices and use of lawn fertilizers.

The former would establish funding to help farmers implement measures to reduce pollution runoff to streams from agricultural operations and improve overall water quality in the state.

Senate Bill 251, as initially proposed, would update the 1965 Pennsylvania Fertilizer Act to establish best practices for use of fertilizer, create a certification program for commercial use, promote public education and outreach and require improved labeling and reporting.

On other issues, Yaw said broadband expansion is foremost on the minds of people across the 23rd Senate District.

With 24 school districts and 144 municipal governments in his district, high-speed internet service is vital, including in many rural remote areas where it doesn’t exist.

“It’s a big deal,” he said.

Broadband is vital for schools, businesses, farmers and telemedicine.

“The cost is the issue,” he said.

Yaw said lawmakers will also be busy with the state budget process.

“We are probably in pretty good shape financially,” he said.

Gov. Wolf recently announced that the state has a fat budget reserve, a growing surplus and billions of dollars in unspent federal coronavirus dollars.

Excess funds can be expected to bring more requests for additional funding for programs, Yaw noted.

However, ongoing high inflation will only drive up costs for programs and services.

He said the question of what federal funds made available to the state will impact the budget process.

Yaw said opioids addiction remains a big problem in the state with the numbers of fatal overdoses “up significantly.”

He said he felt progress was being made in addressing the issue through 2019.

“Then COVID hit,” he said.

The pandemic and the rising use of fentanyl likely exacerbated the opioid problem, he said.

Addiction, he said, is a serious problem and should not be considered a moral failing by its victims.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, chaired by Yaw, will hold a virtual public hearing Feb. 11 to learn more about COVID-19’s influence on the opioid problem.

Yaw, first elected to the Senate in 2008, declined to say if he will seek re-election in three years.

He said the challenge of the job is what “keeps me going.”


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