House environmental chair says he won’t run for re-election

Written by on January 5, 2022

House environmental chair says he won’t run for re-election

By Rachel McDevitt, StateImpact Pennsylvania
January 5, 2022

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, announced he will not seek a 13th term in the Pa. House. (Courtesy photo)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The chair of the state House environmental committee, a strong supporter of the natural gas industry and a climate change denier, plans to retire after this year.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said he will not run for re-election after serving 12 terms. In a statement, the 59-year-old said he feels called to “a new adventure in life.” His announcement did not say what he’d do next, and he didn’t respond to an interview request to talk about the decision.

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Metcalfe, first elected in 1998, is known for conservative views. He led an annual “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” rally at the state capitol and blocked Democratic-sponsored legislation while chair of the House State Government Committee from 2011-2018.

Metcalfe became chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee at the start of the 2019-20 legislative session.

Chad Forcey, executive director of Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, said in a statement that Metcalfe has been open and willing to discuss “all of the above” energy sources, and that his work on the committee has set the stage for a workable regulatory framework for the solar industry in Pennsylvania.

But Metcalfe has also used his position to effectively kill bills that would increase accountability for natural gas drillers or increase renewable energy, while greenlighting bills to roll back regulations – even as the climate crisis becomes more urgent.

In recent years, Metcalfe invited known climate science deniers to testify at hearings where they argued against measures meant to address global warming.

As ERE committee chair, he is a key opponent of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative, which makes power plants pay to pollute. Metcalfe’s platform allowed him to organize several hearings on RGGI, which were stacked with like-minded opponents. He advanced legislation and resolutions that would let the legislature block entrance to RGGI. And he wrote letters to offices he believed could keep the state out of the effort, such as RGGI, Inc., the nonprofit that administers the program.

So far, those efforts haven’t worked. The state has passed all regulatory hurdles to join RGGI, though it is still facing delays and could encounter a court challenge.

Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, minority chair of the ERE committee, said he was surprised by the announcement.

Vitali said while he gets along with Metcalfe personally, he has been difficult to work with.

“In a huge greenhouse gas-producing state like Pennsylvania, having the majority chairman of an environmental committee as a climate denier is not a good thing,” Vitali said.

If the GOP holds the House after the 2022 election, Vitali said he hopes a more moderate Republican will take over the committee.

David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, said he doubts Metcalfe’s departure will change business-as-usual for the GOP’s environmental policy.

He noted very few bills that moved through the ERE committee went on to become law, because it was not a place to work together and find common ground.

Republican House leaders did not respond to requests for comment.

Metcalfe’s term ends on Nov. 30.

In a statement, he said he worked to limit government and “protect taxpayers,” and he thanked voters for electing him, saying he’s “honored by the broad and deep base of support from citizens across the state.”

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