Shapiro’s PACER plan likely stuck in park, sources say

It looks like Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s plan to fast-track Pennsylvania into a carbon cap-and-trade program is going nowhere.

Less than a week before the June 30 budget deadline, sources tell DVJournal there are no plans for hearings or votes on Shapiro’s so-called “Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act” (PACER).

“Cap-and-tax is a difficult piece to support,” Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson Kate Flessner told DVJournal.

Shapiro is far from a tower of political strength on the issue of carbon cap and trade. The premise of the policy, advocated by green activists at both the federal and state level, is to discourage the burning of fossil fuels by forcing the trade or purchase of carbon credits and driving up the costs. Former Gov. Tom Wolf (D) embraced that policy, unilaterally pushing Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon credit program. (His attempt to bypass the legislative process was blocked by the Commonwealth Court.)

But during his 2022 campaign and as governor, Shapiro has assiduously avoided taking a stance on RGGI, leaving both environmentalists and energy industry workers frustrated. Instead, Shapiro unveiled PACER with much fanfare in March, calling it a plan “tailored for Pennsylvania.” The governor portrayed it as necessary for the future, vowing that it would lower carbon emissions, create 14,500 jobs, and save consumers more than $250 million in electricity rebates.

State House Republicans oppose the PACER plan, calling it a tax on consumers. Raising the price of carbon, they argue, raises the prices of everything produced and delivered using fossil fuels. Those costs would be passed on to Pennsylvania residential and business consumers.

Flessner said the Senate GOP remained open to looking at other initiatives to foster and grow energy development.

Some of those ideas passed the Senate in the spring.

Senate Bill 832 created a new board to review and issue energy project permits. The board could issue some permits without a hearing. It also established a separate independent agency to review policies, regulations, and laws related to the energy industry. That agency could also recommend the Commonwealth adopt energy policies from other states. Shapiro opposed the bill but said he would review it again after it was rewritten.

The Republican-controlled Senate also passed a bill on carbon capture technology. Senate Bill 831 would let companies deposit carbon dioxide into an underground reservoir. It would also create a new fund for carbon capture storage facilities.

Both energy bills are stalled in the Democrat-controlled House.

Energy sector advocates found Shapiro’s claims on PACER odd because of the Keystone State’s large natural gas reserves. Pennsylvania is second in the nation in natural gas production and energy exports to other states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Texas is first.

Jim Welty with the Marcellus Shale Coalition said that meant big bucks for not only businesses but also the state government.

At an event marking Natural Gas and Oil Day at the capitol on Tuesday, Welty said the industry contributed $41 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy in 2022. It also paid $6 billion in royalties to private land owners and the government. He added about $6 billion was deposited into local and state coffers due to taxes that same year.

That doesn’t count the environmental contributions. Carbon emissions dropped 46 percent from 2005 to 2024, according to Welty. All while the natural gas industry took off.

Statistics from Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office show natural gas accounts for almost 60 percent of the energy generated in the state.

How much energy was produced by so-called green sources? Barely four percent.

Some green activists, like Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester), saw Shapiro’s proposal as the avenue to bring about massive environmental and economic change.

She said last month that “inaction on climate is not an option.” Otten also criticized the state for being in the bottom five in the U.S. for the amount of alternative energy that’s used to power homes and businesses.

Friel sponsored Shapiro’s Pennsylvania Reliable Energy Sustainability Standard (PRESS) proposal in the House. PRESS would have set new alternative energy standards to encourage additional investments in so-called clean energy sources.

Sources tell DVJournal PRESS is not expected to pass.

Not every Democrat in the state legislature favors ending natural gas development in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Philadelphia) said Tuesday rolling brownouts are possible if the electric grid is forced to rely on solar or wind power. “It’s not dependable. What we have proven year after year after  year is that natural gas and oil [are] dependable energy that do keep the lights on.”

Shapiro’s office declined to comment.

Taylor Millard writes about politics and public policy.

This article was republished with permission from the Delaware Valley Journal.

One thought on “Shapiro’s PACER plan likely stuck in park, sources say”

  1. Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Philadelphia) said Tuesday rolling brownouts are possible if the electric grid is forced to rely on solar or wind power. “It’s not dependable. What we have proven year after year after year is that natural gas and oil [are] dependable energy that do keep the lights on.”
    Rep. Ed Neilson sounds like a reasonable person.

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