HARRISBURG – Ensuring that the people’s voices are heard on major environmental policies statewide, Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) today thanked her House colleagues in voting for legislation that would require legislative authorization before Pennsylvania could impose a carbon tax.
“When considering a policy as far reaching as this, we must consider the effect it will have on one of the largest industry sectors in this Commonwealth, as well as the tremendous impact on our residents – the elimination of their jobs and the utility bills they pay,” said Oberlander, who served as a primary sponsor of the legislation. “This legislation is also about making sure that the people have a voice regarding a tax of this magnitude and its ability to hamper the supply of power to our communities, critical infrastructure and consumers.”
House Bill 2025, which passed the House in a bipartisan effort on Wednesday and now heads to the state Senate, would require the Legislature to approve any carbon tax on employers engaged in electric generation, manufacturing or other industries operating in the Commonwealth, or enter into any multi-state program, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), that would impose such a tax.
Last fall, the governor issued an executive order directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to commence RGGI regulations. RGGI would establish a regional cap on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution that power plants can emit by establishing a trading system. Each unit of trade, known as an allowance, would represent authorization for a power plant to emit one short ton (2,000 pounds) of CO2. Power plants in RGGI member states can trade allowances, preventing the total amount of CO2 emissions in the region from increasing. RGGI would also establish a carbon tax on fossil fuel users for the resulting CO2 emissions.
Legislative authorization is necessary, Oberlander believes, because any carbon tax imposed would ultimately be paid for by Pennsylvania residents and businesses through higher energy bills. In addition, thousands of energy jobs would be lost to neighboring states that are not part of RGGI, and the tax would discourage other types of economic development.
The Pennsylvania legislation simply follows actions in other states, which entered into RGGI through legislative approval. Of those states, Pennsylvania is also the only net exporter of energy.
“Pennsylvania residents and businesses that would ultimately pay the bill deserve to have a say in whether or not this energy policy is the right direction for our state,” Oberlander added. “The timing of this is especially critical, because we are ahead of the timeline in meeting air emission goals and we are working to get our economy back on track. We don’t want this type of policy to set us back.”