Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, is breaking with Gov. Tom Wolf on the centerpiece of Wolf’s plan to fight climate change amid the strong and sustained pushback it has received from building trades unions that have long backed the party’s candidates for governor.
Wolf — a fellow Democrat who has endorsed Shapiro, the state’s two-term attorney general — has worked for two years to finalize regulations to make Pennsylvania the first major fossil fuel state to adopt a carbon pricing policy by imposing a price on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Wolf has called it a “historic, proactive and progressive approach that will have significant positive environmental, public health and economic impacts.”
But Shapiro, in a statement from his 2-week-old campaign, suggested that Wolf’s plan — which involves joining the multistate consortium, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI — does not satisfy criticism that it will hurt the state’s energy industry, drive up electric prices and do little to curtail greenhouse gases.
“We need to take real action to address climate change, protect and create energy jobs and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable and clean power for the long term,” Shapiro said in the statement. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.”
That, he said, “is a determination I will make as governor, in close consultation with workers and affected communities.”
Shapiro’s statement came as he prepared Wednesday to address union leaders from the pipeline trades who planned to question him about his position. They are among the labor unions whose members work on power plants, gas pipelines and refineries.
Wolf said Tuesday that he still expects his plan to take effect next year. For now, Wolf’s plan faces solid opposition from Republicans in the Legislature and in the double-digit-deep field running for governor in next year’s election.
Republicans can halt Wolf’s carbon-pricing regulation if they win over enough Democrats to muster veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate. Wolf’s regulation also faces litigation from opponents who question its legality.
Shapiro has made similar comments, both to the Indiana Gazette and officials from the Boilermakers’ union. The day Shapiro formally announced his candidacy, Oct. 13, he had lunch at the electricians’ union hall in Pittsburgh, where they asked him about his position.
“He told me he does not stand for RGGI the way it stands right now and he feels it should be run through the Legislature,” John Hughes, the business manager of Boilermakers Local 154, said Tuesday. “We should get everyone to the table and talk about it. … I said, ‘we are going to support the guy who doesn’t support RGGI,’ and he told me, ‘I can’t support it as is.’”