DEP adds ‘equity principles’ to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Written by on April 16, 2021

DEP adds ‘equity principles’ to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Rachel McDevitt / StatImpact Pennsylvania

April 16, 2021

U.S. Steel’s Clairton Plant, the largest coke works in North America, in Clairton, Pa. Photo| Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Department of Environmental Protection is hoping to address environmental justice concerns raised by Pennsylvania’s attempt to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or “reggie.”

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Pennsylvania is part of the program, with 11 other states, that aims to reduce power plant emissions.

Nathan Chan, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies reggie, says it could be difficult to draw a line between reggie and increased pollution in a certain area as there are many factors at play.

“Any cap and trade system is going to likely reallocate where pollution is created and where it is abated. What’s not as obvious is whether this would necessarily cut along environmental justice lines,” Chan says. 

DEP is adding language to the RGGI draft regulation promising to collect public input about decisions, protect public health and work to distribute environmental and economic benefits of the program.

However, the agency doesn’t have details about how those would be enforced.

Rabbi Julie Greenberg, the climate justice coordinator at Power Interfaith, says she doesn’t think a list of intentions is enough.

“We also need a plan, that’s like a timeline, benchmarks, monitoring, corrections, who’s participating, who’s making the decisions?” Greenberg says. 

DEP says it will assess air quality annually, with an eye toward environmental justice communities. Those are defined as areas with a certain number of minority or low-income residents.

Other RGGI states haven’t built such principles into their laws, but some have pursued similar measures outside of the program. 

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