HARRISBURG — Outspoken Pennsylvania lawmaker Daryl Metcalfe opened a new chapter in his ongoing efforts to keep Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf from joining a regional climate pact.
Metcalfe, R-Butler, the chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said in a letter that any decision concerning Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative needs legislative approval, not just an order from the governor, and moving forward could result in legal action.
Wolf issued an executive order in October directing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to begin moving toward joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nine states are currently a part of the initiative.
Metcalfe, in his letter to RGGI’s executive director, said “Pennsylvania law requires that in order for the governor to execute a carbon cap-and-trade program such as RGGI, explicit approval is required from our Commonwealth’s legislative branch. Welcoming Pennsylvania into your ranks without legislative approval would be foolish and harmful both to RGGI and our Commonwealth.”
Metcalfe said bipartisan and bicameral discussions and efforts are already well underway to stop the state from joining the initiative.
“Pennsylvania has a rogue governor,” Metcalfe said in his letter. “If you allow him to move forward without legislative approval, RGGI will undoubtably incur significant costs involved with the ensuing litigation. These are costs that would presumably be paid by the taxpayers of the existing member states.”
Wolf’s office said a state law gives the governor the authority to join the regional cap-and-trade program that limits carbon dioxide emissions.
“Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act gives the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) broad authority to promulgate regulations to address air pollution including greenhouse gasses which are found to be “inimical to the public health, safety, or welfare,” statutory authority has been utilized by the EQB a number of times over the past several decades in establishing cap-and-trade programs to address emissions from power plants, J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, told The Center Square in an email. “No court has found that the commonwealth lacks statutory authority to regulate air contamination emissions through these programs.”
The governor had “productive conversations” with member state lawmakers before issuing the order, Abbott said.
“And while no consensus has emerged in the legislature on how to proceed, given the urgency of this issue, Governor Wolf felt the need to move forward at this time,” Abbott said.
Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, according to an article posed on the website for the nonprofit think tank Heartland Institute, has said that both chambers of the Legislature will vote on RGGI membership. Turzai said he would sue Wolf if he vetoes the bills.