Pennsylvania court: state can’t charge power plant owners for greenhouse gases

Pennsylvania cannot enforce a regulation requiring power plant owners to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, a state court ruled Wednesday, dealing another setback to the coin mistress of former Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to combat global warming.

The Commonwealth Court last year Temporarily blocked Pennsylvania to become the first major fossil fuel producing state to adopt a carbon pricing program, and the new ruling makes that decision permanent.

The move is a victory for Republican lawmakers and coal interests, who argued that the carbon pricing plan amounted to a tax and therefore would have required legislative approval. Wolf, a Democrat, had sought to circumvent legislative opposition by imposing the requirement unconstitutionally through a regulation, they said.

The court agreed in a 4-1 decision.

The regulation drafted by the Wolf administration had authorized Pennsylvania to join the Multistate Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which imposes a price and sliding-scale cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

It would be up to Wolf’s successor, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, to decide whether he would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Shapiro’s administration had no comment Wednesday on whether it would appeal, and Shapiro himself has not said publicly whether he would follow through on his plan to join the consortium, if the courts l ‘authorize.

Still, Shapiro “is focused on combatting climate change, reducing emissions, and protecting public health while creating jobs and protecting consumers,” Shapiro’s administration said in a statement.

Republican lawmakers praised the ruling and urged Shapiro not to appeal. Such a plan still has no chance of passing the state Legislature, where the Republican-controlled Senate has protected the coal and natural gas industries in the nation’s second-largest gas state.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, Republican of Indiana, said Pennsylvania lawmakers should now work to “foster greater energy independence, while ensuring responsible development of our given natural resources by God.”

In the House, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority, neither a carbon pricing plan nor Shapiro’s most clearly defined clean energy goal — a commitment to ensuring Pennsylvania uses 30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 – came to vote.

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups said no alternative climate plan was waiting on Shapiro’s desk, and in a statement they urged Shapiro to appeal the decision to “demonstrate his commitment to protecting the climate, human health and the economic future of Pennsylvanians.” »

Critics had said the rate plan would increase electricity bills, hurt the state’s energy producers and drive new electricity generation to other states, without doing much to combat climate change .

Opponents also included natural gas interests, industrial and commercial electricity users and unions whose members build and maintain pipelines, power plants and refineries.

Supporters of the plan called it the largest step ever taken in Pennsylvania to combat climate change and said it would have generated hundreds of millions of dollars a year to promote climate-friendly energy sources and reduce electricity bills through energy saving programs.

Supporters of the plan included environmental advocates as well as solar, wind and nuclear power producers.

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