The administration of Governor Josh Shapiro announced on Tuesday that they will be contesting a court decision that halted a state rule requiring power plant owners in Pennsylvania to cover the costs of their greenhouse gas emissions, while also urging lawmakers to find a more effective solution.
Shapiro did not promise to uphold the regulation if his administration is successful in appealing to the Democratic-dominated state Supreme Court. His administration argues that it is necessary to protect executive power.
However, he encouraged legislators to devise a different strategy.
Shapiro’s office stated that the present moment calls for action and that choosing to do nothing is not a viable option.
It appeared improbable that any action would be taken, as the state Senate, currently led by Republicans, disapproved of Shapiro’s choice to appeal and believed it would hinder productive conversations about energy and environmental policies.
The appeal received praise from environmental advocacy groups.
The focus of the case is on the main element of former Governor Tom Wolf’s strategy to combat climate change and establish Pennsylvania as the first major state with significant fossil fuel production to implement a carbon pricing system.
On November 1st, the Commonwealth Court ruled with a 4-1 majority in favor of Republican lawmakers and coal industry representatives who claimed that Governor Wolf’s carbon-pricing proposal was essentially a tax and needed to be approved by the legislative branch.
Opponents claimed that Wolf, a member of the Democratic party, attempted to bypass resistance from lawmakers by implementing the mandate through a regulation, which they deemed unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania was given the authority to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program that sets a price and decreasing limit on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Although Shapiro has expressed disapproval of it, he has not explicitly stated whether he would enforce it if he were to win in court. In his message to legislators on Tuesday, Shapiro also did not mention the importance of addressing climate change.
Instead, he expressed the idea using different wording, referring to it as “commonsense energy policy.” He also stated that he would approve another carbon-pricing plan if it is passed by the legislature.
“If the legislative leaders decide to have productive discussions, the governor is optimistic that we can reach a better solution than RGGI,” stated Shapiro’s office. “But if they choose to walk away, they will be opting not to promote sensible energy policies that safeguard jobs, the environment, and consumers in Pennsylvania.”
The likelihood of this plan being approved by the state Legislature remains low, as the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, has consistently prioritized the coal and natural gas industries in the second largest gas-producing state in the country.
Republican legislators celebrated the court’s ruling to halt the regulation and requested that Shapiro refrain from appealing it.
Instead, the Republican party has advocated for increasing opportunities for energy production in the state. They have also expressed concern that the regulation will result in higher electricity costs, negatively impacting energy producers within the state and potentially shifting new power generation to other states. However, they believe that the regulation will have minimal impact on combating climate change.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, a Republican from Indiana County, referred to the appeal as “misguided” in a statement.
“Gov. Shapiro’s action further places family sustaining jobs at risk and stymies the ability for any meaningful conversations on energy and environmental policy in the Pennsylvania legislature,” Pittman said. “The governor should be standing with working families who are struggling with inflationary costs and pressures from higher electric bills.”
In the House of Representatives, where Democrats have a slim one-seat majority, both a carbon-pricing proposal and Shapiro’s clearly defined objective of reaching a clean energy goal of 30% renewable electricity usage in Pennsylvania by 2030 have not been brought to a vote.
The supporters of the rule consisted of environmental activists and companies involved in solar, wind, and nuclear energy.
It has been deemed as the most significant action ever taken in Pennsylvania to combat climate change. It was projected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support eco-friendly energy sources and decrease electricity costs through conservation efforts.
The opposing side consisted of those with interests related to natural gas, users of industrial and commercial power, and labor unions comprised of workers who construct and upkeep pipelines, power plants, and refineries.
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