(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania lawmaker is urging the Wolf administration to testify about inaccurate taxpayer-funded modeling for the cost of membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell urging him to reconsider an invitation to testify before the committee at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
The letter is the latest development in a years-long dispute between the Wolf administration and state lawmakers over the RGGI, a carbon tax consortium of New England and Mid-Atlantic states. that would require Pennsylvania’s 58 fossil-fuel power plants to buy auction credits for every ton of carbon released into the atmosphere.
Wolf signed an executive order that would bring Pennsylvania into the consortium this year, and modeling by ICF International on behalf of DEP predicted the credits would cost less than $3 per short ton.
Auction prices set on December 1, however, topped $13 a short ton — four times forecast and 40% above prices set on September 8 — bolstering Republicans’ argument in the General Assembly that membership at RGGI will dramatically increase energy bills for consumers and cost the state thousands of jobs.
“Earlier today, I was told that you and (DEP) staff chose not to participate in our January 18 hearing to consider soaring RGGI allowance prices,” Yaw wrote on Thursday. at McDonnell. “It’s disappointing.”
“The modeling carried out by ICF International at the request of the Department is already outdated. Information provided to the Environmental Quality Board, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the General Assembly has been found to be false, including RGGI credits,” the letter read. “The department has authorized over $400,000 in taxpayer funded money to pay for this modeling, questions need to be asked and answers need to be provided.
“Given recent developments, historic RGGI carbon tax inflation, overall inflationary pressures, recent increases in default service rates, now is the time to discuss this issue,” Yaw wrote.
The letter came less than a week after Wolf vetoed Resolution 1 of the Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review, which would have ended state involvement in the RGGI. Wolf said, “RGGI is a solution that would boost the economy to the tune of $2 billion while reducing harmful greenhouse gases.”
The governor claimed that the plan to join the RGGI is supported by 72% of residents and would result in 30,000 fewer respiratory hospital visits. He touted RGGI as an important part of his plan to reduce Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.
Yaw is among 162 state lawmakers who voted for the resolution against RGGI, citing the state’s status as the second largest natural gas producer and largest energy exporter. Opposing lawmakers also noted that nearly all states that have joined the RGGI have sought legislative approval, while the Wolf administration aims to join through executive action.
In a statement earlier this week urging colleagues to override Wolf’s veto, Yaw pointed out that Pennsylvania had cut emissions by 38% since 2006 without the RGGI — “more than all 12 participating states combined” — while maintaining 30% to 60% lower electricity rates. that RGGI states.
“RGGI will be a disaster for our state,” Yaw said. “The program’s de facto carbon tax levied on power generators will result in electricity bills soaring in double digits, fuel costs skyrocketing and price increases on just about everything we use every day. . Thousands of jobs will disappear. And no carbon emissions will be removed from the atmosphere.
The General Assembly resolution against RGGI passed both houses with a handful of votes shy of the two-thirds needed to override Wolf’s veto.