Not content with killing thousands of jobs with his disastrous COVID lockdowns on small businesses across Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf is set to put more workers on unemployment with a radical environmental plan.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a carbon cap-and-trade scheme that a confederation of eastern states stretching from New England to Virginia have signed on to. Wolf is pushing Pennsylvania to join, which would mean that 58 powerplants statewide would have to buy a “credit” for every ton of carbon they emit every year. 

The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which does not answer to voters, approved the plan on Sept. 1 by a narrow 3-to-2 vote.

But their vote must not be the final say. The plan has a number of glaring flaws and should be scrapped by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which still has the power to do so.

RGGI is strongly opposed by labor unions because it will hurt Pennsylvania’s working families and low-income households, by both killing jobs and making electricity more expensive. 

“The economic hardships that would be created by RGGI would far exceed any estimates that are currently being touted,” said International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International Vice President Michael Welch.

‘The economic hardships that would be created by RGGI would far exceed any estimates that are currently being touted.’

“It would pave the way for an economy-wide carbon tax that would be especially harmful to large manufacturers, which employ and contract with thousands of union workers,” said Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council Business Manager Tom Melcher.

Unquestionably, forcing electricity producers to pay for these credits is a tax on their businesses, which will be passed on to consumers. And because it is a tax, it should rightly be the prerogative of the Legislature, and not an unelected bureaucratic board. The unions noticed this too.

“It is impossible to imagine the General Assembly could have ever intended the Air Pollution Control Act to authorize such a massive energy policy overhaul to occur through the regulatory process,” said Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council President Joseph Gusler. “If Pennsylvania is to join RGGI, or otherwise impose carbon taxes on fossil fuel generation, this is a decision that should be left to the legislative branch, which is far better equipped to balance the actual risks against the perceived benefits of such a policy.”

The RGGI also calls to mind the wrong-headed Paris Accord, in which the U.S. federal government agreed to kneecap our economy in the name of controlling climate change, while not requiring other, more egregiously polluting nations, to do the same. 

The demand for electricity will not decrease if Pennsylvania joins the RGGI. Instead, energy production will merely move to nearby states which do not fall under the regulations, meaning carbon emissions would remain effectively unchanged.

“RGGI would not accomplish any environmental goals. It would merely shift electricity production to neighboring states who are not part of this state-by-state pact,” said IBEW’s Welch. 

‘RGGI would not any accomplish any environmental goals. It would merely shift electricity production to neighboring states who are not part of this state-by-state pact.’

“DEP’s own modeling confirms that nearly 100 percent of all CO2 emission reductions in Pennsylvania will be offset by emission increases in non-RGGI states that lack the same environmental controls as are applied to plants in Pennsylvania,” added Pittsburgh’s Melcher. 

One of Wolf’s selling points is that the revenue generated by RGGI “will allow Pennsylvania to make targeted investments” in communities affected by the job losses. But any fiscal benefit will fade over time, since fewer credits will be available each year, causing revenues to dwindle. And the front-end impact will also not be as dramatic as advertised.

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“RGGI revenues would likely be reduced from an estimated $300 million to as little as $127 million,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale.

One wonders where Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro comes down on this boondoggle. He envisions himself as the heir to Wolf’s throne in Harrisburg and is the likely Democratic nominee for governor in 2022. He should publicly take a stand and tell voters whether he sides with working Pennsylvanians or the environmental extremists.

As for me, I know what I believe. RGGI will kill jobs, increase electric bills, and place too much power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. It won’t provide the economic impact promised and it won’t even help the environment.

The General Assembly should move to reject Pennsylvania’s involvement in RGGI. If not, then when I’m elected governor, I’ll take care of it myself.

Former mayor and congressman Lou Barletta is a Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania

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