It was to my great disappointment and concern that, on January 11th, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the Legislature’s concurrent disapproval resolution that would have blocked the Department of Environmental Protection’s Regulation 7-559, authorizing Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
RGGI is a mandatory carbon tax compact that currently includes 11 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. According to the Energy Information Administration, four of the states in RGGI have the highest electric rates in the country, which can be up to approximately 50 percent higher than Pennsylvania’s rates.
This initiative is being pursued by the governor without any legislative authority and through unilateral action once again. Pennsylvania would be the ONLY state in this compact to have joined without the approval of its Legislature. These unilateral decisions continue to set a dangerous precedent and should alarm every Pennsylvanian. These actions bypass our constitutionally protected system of checks and balances, which has kept our representative government strong and responsive to our citizens for centuries.
The process matters, regardless of your opinion on the taxing of carbon emissions.
Make no mistake; joining RGGI is a tax on the citizens of Pennsylvania. If this is allowed to occur, the power of a Governor would be elevated to a level where he/she can levy any tax without legislative approval or public input. According to initial modeling undertaken by the Administration, approximately $300 million of new tax revenue will be generated by power plants paying a price for emitting carbon as they produce electricity. This cost will be passed on to every consumer of electricity in the form of increased rates, just as the gasoline tax is transferred to all of us at the gas pump.
No other state has more to lose economically by joining RGGI than Pennsylvania. As one of the top energy producers and the second largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., Pennsylvania’s consumers would carry the water for the less energy-fortunate states in the compact.
In fact, this “one-size-fits-all” universal approach to energy makes Pennsylvania less competitive, bypasses our local jobs, and makes the Commonwealth less energy-diverse, by taking energy options off the table. This will also increase individual household energy costs, whether you are raising a young family or are a senior citizen on a fixed income.
Manufacturers are already struggling with supply chain issues and inflation, and now their energy costs under RGGI will surely escalate. Which businesses, offering high-paying jobs and using high amounts of energy, will want to remain in or relocate to Pennsylvania?
Intentionally excluding legislative debate from the lawmaking and policy-making process removes the voice of the people, leaving important questions unanswered, such as the following:
- Do we really want other states dictating our energy standards?
- Shouldn’t the people of Pennsylvania make their own energy choices, not out-of-staters in Virginia, New York, Maryland, or beyond?
- Why is Pennsylvania the ONLY state in this compact to have joined without the approval of its Legislature?
- If any Pennsylvania Governor can unilaterally enter our Commonwealth into this compact, what’s next? Will we soon be joining a multi-state compact to tax emissions on your family car, above and beyond what some counties, including Mercer County, needlessly have?
- Is it wise to allow this or any future governor to exceed their authority unchecked?
Beyond Governor Wolf’s “lone wolf” approach to entering RGGI, this compact will do very little to reduce carbon emissions. This job-killing, tax-increasing policy, advanced without legislative approval, and with virtually no benefit to our citizens, is precisely the type of unchecked bureaucracy that many Pennsylvanians are tired of.
Let’s return to the people’s government as our forefathers envisioned.
Senator, 50th District