The following editorial appeared in the Scranton Times-Tribune. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.
As soon as Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 3-2 on Sept. 1 to approve the state’s participation in a market-based carbon-reduction project, a House committee adopted a resolution opposing it.
The vote clears the way for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state effort to reduce carbon emissions by setting a market price on pollution. The other members are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
Pennsylvania is the only major fossil fuel-producing state in the group.
RGGI is a cap-and-trade program, under which the participating states set a price that power producers must pay for each ton of carbon pollution that they produce. That will make dirtier sources of power less competitive and help increase generation by cleaner sources.
Pennsylvania is a major power producer, including for export to other states in the region. Because of that, opponents of RGGI argue that it will adversely affect communities tied to coal production and fossil-fuel power generation.
But a cleaner environment, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a strong economy need not be mutually exclusive concepts. Rather than continuing to subsidize dirty power generators by continuing to allow them to pollute for free, the Legislature should work on ways to integrate the cleaner power while assisting the communities adversely affected by the transition.
The Wolf administration estimates that the carbon credits under RGGI will generate between $137 million and $185 million a year. For example, lawmakers should mandate that the revenue be used to foster economic development, including of clean power projects, in the affected areas.
Pennsylvania is unusual within the context of the RGGI members not only because it is a major fossil-fuel power generator, but because it has a constitution that requires the state government to ensure a healthy environment and to act as a trustee for the preservation of environmental resources.
RGGI is an instrument to help meet that constitutional mandate. The Legislature should help to make it work.