Health

As Pennsylvania’s Crucial RGGI Vote Nears, Here’s A Quick Look At The Carbon Emissions Program

The Environmental Quality Board is set to vote Tuesday on the final regulation that would have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. If the board approves it, the commonwealth will be set up to become the first major fossil-fuel state to put a price on carbon emissions.

The cap-and-trade program has pitted Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf against Republicans who control the legislature.

StateImpact Pennsylvania reviews what we know about the program and how Pennsylvania arrived at this vote:

What is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
RGGI is a cap-and-trade program that aims to lower carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. Under the program, made up of 11 mostly northeastern states, power plants buy allowances for the CO2 they emit. That makes dirtier sources of power less competitive selling electricity to the grid. They generate less while cleaner sources ramp up, lowering harmful emissions. States invest the money from the allowance auctions, usually in things like clean energy and energy efficiency. The states in the program are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Why is Pennsylvania trying to join?

Gov. Wolf signed an executive order in October 2019 directing the Department of Environmental Protection to draft a regulation to join RGGI. Targeting CO2 emissions is in line with Wolf’s climate goals of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

“If we want a Pennsylvania that is habitable for our children and our grandchildren… and flooding doesn’t destroy homes and businesses over and over again, we need to get serious right now about addressing the climate crisis,” Wolf said during the RGGI announcement.

Who supports it and why?

Most (but not all) Democrats in the legislature, and environmental groups across the state, say RGGI is an important step for curbing pollution that contributes to climate change and affects people’s health. They say the program will raise money that can be used to aid the transition away from coal and toward cleaner energy.

Who opposes it and why?

Republicans who control the legislature are against joining RGGI, as are some Democrats, especially those who represent communities with coal mines or coal-fired power plants. They say putting a price on CO2 will kill jobs in coal communities, causing economic hardships there. They say the program could also hurt Pennsylvania more broadly if power generation declines in the state.

Gov. Wolf signed an executive order in October 2019 directing the Department of Environmental Protection to draft a regulation to join RGGI. Targeting CO2 emissions is in line with Wolf’s climate goals of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

“If we want a Pennsylvania that is habitable for our children and our grandchildren… and flooding doesn’t destroy homes and businesses over and over again, we need to get serious right now about addressing the climate crisis,” Wolf said during the RGGI announcement.

Who supports it and why?

Most (but not all) Democrats in the legislature, and environmental groups across the state, say RGGI is an important step for curbing pollution that contributes to climate change and affects people’s health. They say the program will raise money that can be used to aid the transition away from coal and toward cleaner energy.

Who opposes it and why?

Republicans who control the legislature are against joining RGGI, as are some Democrats, especially those who represent communities with coal mines or coal-fired power plants. They say putting a price on CO2 will kill jobs in coal communities, causing economic hardships there. They say the program could also hurt Pennsylvania more broadly if power generation declines in the state.



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