RGGI Tax Will Not Benefit Pennsylvania as Governor Wolf Claims

The recent push for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will not benefit Pennsylvania as some have claimed. In short, such a move by the Wolf Administration would impose a $2.36 billion tax over the next 10 years on fossil fuel-fired electric generation – costs that most likely would be passed along to consumers and businesses.

Unlike the other 10 (soon to be 11) RGGI states, Pennsylvania is an energy and electricity exporter, providing power to about two-thirds of the member states and, by comparison, Pennsylvania utility consumers currently pay 50 percent lower electricity bills than RGGI members.

The Wolf Administration’s motivation to join RGGI is to help curb emissions in Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania has already curbed carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent since RGGI’s inception. Since 2005, U.S. natural gas production has increased 68 percent, while carbon emissions tied to the power sector have fallen 28 percent, according to federal government data. In fact, researchers from Carnegie Mellon concluded that with expanded natural gas use, the United States power sector has already achieved Clean Power Plan 2025 emission goals and Pennsylvania’s power sector has hit the Paris agreement targets, as well.

If the state is already meeting the goal set out, why tie our own hands behind our back by adhering to a system designed to hurt an energy and electricity producing state like Pennsylvania?

RGGI poses a significant threat to the well-being of PA’s businesses, consumers, and workers alike. Businesses and consumers will have to pay more for power as the state will be forced to find other energy resources and thousands of Pennsylvanians will lose their jobs, according to Thomas Melcher of the Southwest Pennsylvania Building Trades and Jeff Nobors of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania in a recent opinion piece in The Tribune-Review.

Three different state advisory panels from the Department of Environmental (DEP) have evaluated the proposal and all rejected it, yet the Wolf Administration is continuing to move forward. This despite questions about whether Pennsylvania can join through executive authority.

Pennsylvania has been a nationwide leader in energy. We are home to the first ever domestic oil strike, we are currently the third largest coal producing state, and we are the second largest natural gas producing state in the country. We have a great opportunity to continue down this path as a national leader in energy development thanks to the Marcellus Shale and the clean burning natural gas produced right here in the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania electricity consumers are paying lower costs than our regional neighbors all while reducing carbon emissions. We are already experiencing a win/win, so why are we looking to join RGGI again?