(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill Thursday that would have restricted his administration’s ability to join a regional climate pact without input from lawmakers.

The Wolf administration has committed the state to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a coalition of Eastern states that establishes a market for energy businesses that emit carbon dioxide above a certain threshold. Companies in RGGI states have to buy allowances at auction for emissions that exceed the threshold.

The administration insists that joining RGGI will help to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change while also bolstering the state budget through the payment of the allowances. But critics, particularly Republican state lawmakers, say that the added financial burden imposed on energy companies will damage a key sector of the economy.

Struzzi argued that joining RGGI would put the state’s coal-fired power plants out of business in short order, and its natural gas-fueled plants would be at a severe disadvantage compared to those in states that are not part of RGGI.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 2025, sponsored by Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, earlier this month. The bill dictated that moves like joining RGGI would require legislative approval.

“A carbon tax is a major energy and fiscal policy initiative, and if such a tax is to be imposed on Pennsylvania industries, we believe it must emanate from the General Assembly,” Struzzi wrote in a memo to his fellow lawmakers. “In addition to the fiscal impact on Pennsylvania manufacturers, coal and gas electric generation, consumers, and future economic investments made in our state, this also implicates serious constitutional principles of checks and balances that merit a strong, bipartisan response from the Legislative Branch.”

Struzzi argued that joining RGGI would put the state’s coal-fired power plants out of business in short order, and its natural gas-fueled plants would be at a severe disadvantage compared to those in states that are not part of RGGI.

In vetoing HB2025, Wolf argued that the imminent threat of climate change outweighed other considerations.

“Like every state in the country, the Commonwealth has already begun to experience adverse impacts from climate change, such as higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and frequent extreme weather events, including large storms, flooding, heat waves, heavier snowfalls, and periods of drought,” Wolf wrote in his veto message. “Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are even more significant now as emerging evidence links chronic exposure to air pollution with higher rates of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.”

The Democratic governor also argued that the states that are already in the RGGI pact have seen both environmental and economic benefits after imposing the system.

“RGGI participating states have reduced power sector carbon dioxide pollution by 45 percent since 2005, while the region’s per-capita gross domestic product has continued to grow,” Wolf wrote. “By joining RGGI, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to make real progress on limiting climate change-causing carbon pollution while generating thousands of new jobs, providing for worker training, and offering future electric bill savings.”

Wolf’s decision was supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization.

“A regional effort to cut harmful climate pollution could help jumpstart a more equitable, clean energy economy, put thousands of people to work, and cut energy bills for struggling Pennsylvanians,” NRDC senior attorney Mark Szybist said in a news release.

Struzzi’s bill was supported by the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, which had urged Wolf not to veto the legislation.

“During the pandemic-induced recession, there couldn’t be a worse time to further harm small business,” Rebecca Oyler, state legislative director for NFIB in Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “This cap and trade program will hurt not only businesses up and down the supply line of the natural gas and coal industries, but would also impact all other small businesses when their energy costs rise significantly. This will hit small manufacturers, dry cleaners, and any other high energy users hard.”

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York. You can follow him on twitter @Dave_Lemery.

This piece was originally published in The Center Square. Read the original article here.

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