Pennsylvania court blocks governor’s carbon emissions plan

A Pennsylvania court on Tuesday blocked the centerpiece of Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to tackle climate change, the latest challenge to Democrats’ efforts to make Pennsylvania the first major fossil fuel state to adopt a carbon pricing policy .

The Commonwealth Court, in an unsigned one-line order, said it would not allow the settlement to be officially published “pending a further court order”.

The settlement would force fossil-fuel power plants to pay a price for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit from July 1 in a state that has long been one of the nation’s biggest polluters and electricity producers. .

The regulations were to be published on Saturday. But the court sided with leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, which a day earlier had failed in their latest legislative attempt to block the settlement.

Wolf’s administration said only Tuesday evening that it is reviewing the order and is “committed to ensuring that this regulatory process continues to move forward.”

Republican lawmakers in the No. 2 Natural Gas State and the No. 3 Coal Mining State argue that the regulation is an illegal use of regulatory authority. They say legislative approval is needed to force power plants to buy hundreds of millions of dollars each year in credits that the state could then spend on clean energy or energy efficiency programs.

In 2019, Wolf ordered his administration to begin work on a settlement to bring Pennsylvania into a multistate consortium of northeast and mid-Atlantic states called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets a decreasing price and limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. .

The plan has received approval from regulators and approval from the Governor’s General Counsel’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office under review for form and legality.

Wolf insisted his administration has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide under existing state air pollution laws and Democratic lawmakers say the measure is desperately needed to act on climate change and accelerate Pennsylvania’s transition into the future of a clean energy economy.

Republican lawmakers, however, say paying a price for carbon dioxide emissions will shut down power plants, raise consumers’ electric bills, threaten national security and destroy the country’s growing natural gas-based industrial economy. Pennsylvania.

Opponents included coal and natural gas interests, industry and business groups, and unions whose workers maintain power plants, build gas pipelines and mine coal. It enjoys the support of owners of high-efficiency gas-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, and solar and wind installations.

Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, called the court order “a step in the right direction” given rising electricity costs.

Wolf’s administration estimated that the program would increase electricity bills in the short term, but reduce them by the end of the decade, as money from the credits is spent on energy efficiency programs that result in finally by a lower consumption of electricity.

The Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan legislative agency, agreed that higher auction prices could lead to higher consumer electricity bills. Using methodology developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau of Finance recently calculated that electric bills could rise by about $4.40 to about $6.20. per month.

In consortium states, owners of fossil-fuel power plants with a capacity of 25 megawatts or more must buy a credit for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

This theoretically incentivizes fossil fuel power plants to reduce their emissions and makes non-emitting power plants – such as nuclear, wind and solar – more competitive in electricity markets.

In recent months, the price of a credit has skyrocketed, nearly quadrupling, raising the price dozens of Pennsylvania’s coal, oil and natural gas power plants would have to pay.

Michael A. Mehling, associate director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attributed the rising cost of credits to rising natural gas prices and growing demand for more investors taking climate policies more seriously.

Rising natural gas prices make coal prices more affordable and create an increase in the use of coal for electricity, forcing power plant owners to purchase more emission credits for the higher-emitting fuel of carbon, Mehling said.


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Lynn A. Saleh