Opponents — primarily lawmakers and blue-collar labor unions from coal- and gas-producing regions of Pennsylvania and some fossil-fuel industries — say imposing a price, or a “tax,” on carbon would devastate coal and natural gas jobs and businesses in their communities, including the home-grown economies that support those industries.
They also question the legality of the governor’s authority to join the consortium — nicknamed RGGI — or impose the associated price on carbon without legislative approval, raising the possibility of a lawsuit.
Last month, Senate Republicans threatened to block confirmation of Wolf’s appointments to the five-member Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission — which regulates public utilities, but not power plants or pollution — if Wolf did not agree to seek the Legislature’s approval first to join RGGI.
Wolf in 2019 broached the subject with lawmakers, but gained no traction before announcing his regulatory path months later.
While regulations do not normally require legislative approval to take effect, spending the money would if it goes beyond pollution-reduction programs allowable under the Air Pollution Control Act, administration officials have said.
The administration has estimated that its strategy would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions by more than 180 million tons between 2022 and 2030.
Opponents warn that it would drive up electricity prices for consumers. But Wolf administration projections show those prices being ultimately lower, partly thanks to using the money to boost energy efficiency measures.
Pennsylvania emitted 217 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, or fifth-most among states, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. Electric power production accounted for 35.5% of that, just ahead of the transportation sector, according to federal statistics.