By a recent partisan vote of 3-2, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) opened the door for the state to be part of the interstate initiative called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), on Pennsylvania's coal and natural gas-fired power plants without legislative approval. The move, supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, would raise electric rates on coal or natural power energy production facilities by an extra $2.36 billion over the next 10 years.

Wolf directed his Department of Environmental Protection to become part of RGGI – a collaboration of 11 northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Those states will set a cap on total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power generators in their states. Entry into the RGGI compact will result in the state losing control over its energy production, economic development, environmental protection, and energy security.

According to the chair of the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, “Pennsylvania will lose thousands of skilled and good-paying jobs and untold millions of dollars in its tax base for CO2 emissions reductions stated to be less than 1%.”

This regulation would further erode our state business climate and make it an unwelcome place to do business. RGGI will specifically harm the shale industry in Washington County and the commonwealth by taxing natural gas that stays in state and is used to power electric plants. RGGI could be the last straw that results in taxing our businesses out of state. The closure of a power plant would mean an elimination of hundreds of jobs, loss of tax revenue for municipalities and schools, and increases in the costs of electricity for consumers.

I recently met with the Boilermakers Local 154 in Pittsburgh and was informed the proposed initiative has already adversely affected jobs in the power industry.

Pennsylvania would be the only state to join the compact without legislative approval. Why isn’t Wolf allowing consideration of RGGI by the Legislature? The Senate and House will soon be taking up a concurrent resolution against the RGGI regulation that will pass and reach the governor for consideration. I call on him to approve the resolution or face a possible veto override by the Legislature.

Besides my opposition to the tax, our elected representatives should have legislative review and consideration on such a critical and substantial matter to the commonwealth. Our Constitution calls for tax bills to start in the House of Representatives, not by a handful of Wolf appointees who follow his marching orders.

Nick Sherman

Washington County Commissioner