Pa. environmental regulators push to join regional cap-and-trade program

Written by on May 24, 2021

Pa. environmental regulators push to join regional cap-and-trade program

By Rachel McDevitt / StateImpact Pennsylvania

May 24, 2021

Talen Energy’s Brunner Island plant in York County. Photo | Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Three Department of Environmental Protection advisory committees say the state should move forward with a regulation that would have Pennsylvania join a regional cap and trade program meant to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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The votes mark a shift in attitude on the proposed rule.

None of the committees voted to recommend the draft rule to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative when it was presented last year. But they didn’t reject the proposal, either.

Still, lawmakers who oppose joining RGGI pointed to the votes as one reason to stop the process.

DEP revised the rule to include some protections for waste coal plants and disadvantaged communities, among other changes. And now it has the support of the Citizens Advisory Council, the Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee, and the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, or AQTAC.

“I think we’re trying to do something, I honestly believe for the greater good. But it is not easy. I don’t know that it ever is easy,” says Patrick O’Neill, AQTAC chairman. 

Rebecca Oyler, who sits on the Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee, notes there are still outstanding concerns.

“When we discussed this in the fall, part of the reason we voted not to move the regulation forward was because the economic impact analysis. The indirect impacts on small businesses was not complete. And it seems to me that that economic impact analysis is still incomplete.”

DEP estimates joining the program will save billions in health care costs over the next decade by cutting pollution. It expects to raise $300 million in the first year, which can be used to ease a transition in affected communities.

It plans to present the rule to the Environmental Quality Board for a final vote later this year. If approved, it hopes to join the cap-and-trade program, designed to cut climate-warming emissions, in early 2022.

DEP says it will have the results of outreach efforts to affected communities this summer.

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