×

An open letter to all Pennsylvanians

Gov. Tom Wolf is unlawfully scheming to circumvent the Pennsylvania General Assembly and, by his own estimates, impose a $2.36 billion tax on fossil fuel-fired electric generation plants in Pennsylvania over the next 10 years. Governor Wolf’s goal is for Pennsylvania to join the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cartel of Northeastern states, like New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, whose collective goal is to eliminate or severely reduce generation from coal and natural gas plants in the name of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In Pennsylvania, unlike the RGGI states, about two-thirds of our total electricity capacity comes from fossil fuel plants. Why? Because the Commonwealth is blessed with an abundance of low-cost, home-grown coal and natural gas resources.

Since the Governor announced his RGGI tax, a coalition of union and business leaders united under the Power PA Jobs Alliance have urged the Governor to engage in a robust public outreach process and submit his plan to the state Legislature for consideration. The Governor has refused these reasonable requests. Three state advisory panels housed within his Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) evaluated the Governor’s RGGI proposal, and all three rejected the Governor’s unilateral action to adopt RGGI, concluding that it would not benefit our Commonwealth as the Governor suggests. And in July, an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation that would crystalize current statutory and constitutional law that only the General Assembly can impose a tax, not the Governor acting without legislative authority.

If the General Assembly or, eventually, the courts do not stop the Governor’s $2.36 billion RGGI tax, thousands of Pennsylvanians will lose their jobs. Electricity consumers, especially low-income households and older Pennsylvanians on fixed incomes, will be faced with significant power price increases. And, our low-cost electricity generators who often source their fuel from within Pennsylvania, will be at a competitive disadvantage against fossil fuel plants in Ohio and West Virginia — states that will never join RGGI.

Given the negative economic consequences and increased power prices, and apparently motivated by a desire to gloss over the RGGI risks, it should come as no surprise that the Wolf Administration engaged a pro-RGGI consultant to analyze the costs and benefits associated with Pennsylvania joining RGGI. The Wolf Administration hired and paid $475,000 to a Virginia company, ICF International Inc., to model the impacts of Pennsylvania joining RGGI. ICF International, which has been lobbying for Pennsylvania to join RGGI for several months, is hardly an independent entity.

ICF and DEP have conspired to ignore the many negative impacts inherent with the RGGI scheme, as well as, the enormous carbon dioxide reductions Pennsylvania has achieved in recent years. For instance, we have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent since RGGI started and did so without participating in RGGI. If the RGGI tax is enacted in Pennsylvania, every coal and many older natural gas plants will be forced to close. And, while CO2 emissions may decline in Pennsylvania as a result, fossil fuel power plants in Ohio and West Virginia, many of which are located along Pennsylvania’s western border, will generate additional electricity, offsetting any CO2 reductions from plant closures in PA. In other words, RGGI is a tremendous COVID-19 economic stimulus proposal for Ohio and West Virginia with no environmental benefits.

Pennsylvania electricity households should be prepared to pay much higher rates. Virginia, which recently agreed to joined RGGI, estimates that electricity ratepayers will be forced to pay up to $6 billion more over the next 10 years as a result of RGGI. By comparison, Pennsylvania’s consumer electricity prices remain below the national average, while electricity rates paid by consumers in RGGI states are 50 percent higher than those paid in our state.

The net result of Pennsylvania joining RGGI is clear: increases in power prices and the loss of affordable and reliable electricity production due to the closure of coal- and some natural gas-fired power plants. The closure of those facilities, in turn, will lead to the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs, as well as tax revenue to school districts and communities where those plants are located, and millions of lost tax revenues to the state as a whole.

Absent a global pandemic and record unemployment, it should be obvious: RGGI is not ready for adoption and is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Tom Melcher is business manager of the Pittsburgh Regional Building & Construction Trades Council, and Jeff Nobers is executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pa. Both are with the Power PA Jobs Alliance.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
   

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today