Wolf’s carbon-pricing plan encounters new legal hurdle

Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant

In this Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 file photo, emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the suns sets, near Emmett, Kansas. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration wants the centerpiece of the Democrat’s plan to fight climate change to take effect immediately, but it is being held up in a growing legal dispute by an agency that answers to the Republican-controlled Legislature.

On Friday, Wolf’s secretary of environmental protection, Patrick McDonnell, wrote to the Legislative Reference Bureau to insist that it publish Wolf’s regulation to impose a price on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Publishing it in the Pennsylvania Bulletin would mean the regulation takes immediate effect. The bulletin is published weekly as an official record of actions by government agencies.

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However, Republicans who control the Legislature oppose the regulation and argue that they have more time, months even, to take votes on the regulation. McDonnell wrote that that interpretation of the law is wrong.

Lawmakers ultimately cannot block the regulation unless they are able to muster a two-thirds majority, which they have been unable to do.

The regulation would make Pennsylvania the first major fossil fuel state to adopt a carbon pricing policy.

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The plan has won approval from regulatory bodies and signoff by the attorney general’s office under a review for form and legality.

The regulation allows Pennsylvania, through regulation, to join a multistate consortium, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets a price and declining limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

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