Pa. Senate moves to block key part of Wolf’s climate plan

The action comes the same day the Democratic Attorney General, who is running for governor, tried to distance himself from the program.

The exterior of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, surrounded by fall foliage

The Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Russ Walker/PA Post)

This story originally appeared on StateImpact Pennsylvania.

The state Senate is trying to block Pennsylvania’s path to join an emissions-reduction program with other eastern states.

The action comes the same day Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running for governor, tried to distance himself from the program his fellow Democrat, Gov. Tom Wolf, has made a key piece of his climate agenda. Republicans and some Democrats who represent energy-rich parts of the state say it will kill jobs and hurt Pennsylvania’s status as an energy leader.

The Senate passed a resolution disapproving the rule that would allow the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

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The vote was just shy of a two-thirds, veto-proof majority at 32-18. It now goes to the House.

The Wolf Administration has been working on the rule to join RGGI for two years and plans to join next year. Under the program, power plants pay for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. It’s meant to raise the cost of polluting, making dirtier sources of energy more expensive and less competitive on the electric grid. That allows cleaner sources of power to be used more often.

Pennsylvania would join eleven other states in the program: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) said it would hinder development of industry related to Marcellus shale gas drilling.

“This decision to enter into RGGI is sending a terrible message across the country about Pennsylvania — a terrible message that you’re going to see lack of investment,” Corman said.

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Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) voted against the resolution. She said even though RGGI might not be the best option to address climate change, and she would prefer to vote on a bipartisan solution, it’s the only option she has at the moment.

“We haven’t acted on it for years — no proposal. I have nothing else to vote on to combat climate change except for this,” Boscola said.

Shapiro, who is seeking to succeed Wolf as governor, said in a statement that it’s not clear RGGI will address climate change while protecting energy jobs and ensuring affordable power.

Shapiro was scheduled to address union leaders from the pipeline trades who oppose RGGI Wednesday. The Associated Press reports Shapiro earlier told members of the Boilermakers that he doesn’t support RGGI as it is now.

In his statement, Shapiro said he would develop his energy strategy “in close consultation with workers and affected communities.”

The House has 30 calendar days or 10 legislative days — whichever is longer — to adopt the disapproval resolution. If it does not, the General Assembly will approve the proposed regulation by default.

In a recent letter to the AG asking him to reject the rule in his official capacity, Republican leaders in the House and Senate said they expect the legislative review to last many months.

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