KITTANNING – Armstrong County officials are backing the area’s state senator in his efforts to oppose state plans to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Joined by state Sen. Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) and state Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Ford City) at their Jan. 7 meeting, Armstrong County Commissioners Don Myers, Jason Renshaw and Pat Fabian unanimously approved a resolution in opposition to the state’s plan to create a cap-and-trade program that would impose a tax on power plants that use coal and natural gas.
“We’re very concerned about the proposal being considered by Gov. Wolf and his administration,” Pittman said, noting the impact the plan would have on power plants in the area, as well as local jobs in the coal and natural gas industries.
“Consumer prices for electricity would skyrocket,” Pyle added, noting that the plan would force the phase out of coal use.
Pittman explained that power plants not only provide jobs locally, but pay large amounts of property taxes that fund school districts, counties and municipalities.
“This is not a partisan issue in our area,” Pittman said, urging the commissioners to take up the matter with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Fabian, who noted that the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners adopted a similar resolution a year ago, said they would take the issue to the state organization.
The commissioners’ resolution states that Armstrong County “has an immediate and significant interest in this proposed regulation as a host county to impacted coal-fired generation units.”
They also note that carbon dioxide emissions from Pennsylvania’s fossil-fuel fired electric plants was 33.2 percent below 2005 levels, “which is well in advance of Gov. Wolf’s stated 2025 goal of 26 percent below 2005 levels.”
“These reductions have been accomplished while Pennsylvania has maintained a stable and reliable supply of electricity at competitively priced rates,” the commissioners stated in their resolution. They added that if the plan is put into place, it would eliminate more than 87 percent of existing coal generation in Pennsylvania and “impair the future competitiveness of all natural gas generation.”
“The RGGI tax represents the single, most significant energy generation restructuring in the history of Pennsylvania, and the forced premature retirement of coal and natural gas plants will lead to the loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs,” the commissioners said, noting that in Armstrong County, coal-fired electric operations produce $837 million in total economic impact, and support 1,100 direct and indirect jobs.
The commissioners also took issue with the way the state handled the public comment portion of the process, criticizing the state violated requirements that public hearings be held in areas impacted by the proposed regulations. They argued that the state did not advertise the proposals in the regions of the state that would be affected, and instead of holding in-person hearings, virtual hearings were held that “discriminated against and disenfranchised thousands of potential commenters who lack adequate broad-band [internet] access.”
“If all coal-fired electric generating units within Pennsylvania are forced to close as a result of the RGGI tax, Armstrong County electric customers will be at risk for significant price spikes and potentially rolling brownouts as have occurred in other states that have moved away from fossil fuels,” the resolution states, noting that the county “supports energy policies that make sense for our workers, consumers and employers.”
Pittman said that Pennsylvania is part of a 13-state power grid, and that if the new tax is implemented, energy producers will move to another state with lower taxes.
“If Pennsylvania doesn’t produce it, others will,” he said.
• The commissioners approved the annual tax anticipation note from NexTier Bank in the amount of $3 million, at an interest rate of 1.99 percent.
• Approval was given to donate three computers and a vehicle trailer to Experience Armstrong, the newly independent group that was formerly the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau.
• The commissioners agreed to hire B Longs Cleaning to provide cleaning services at county buildings at a cost of $9,279 per month. Officials noted that the contract will save the county roughly $100,000 per year.
• As it was their first meeting of the new year, the commissioners announced that their regular public meetings would continue to be held the first and third Thursdays of each month at 9 a.m. in the commissioners’ conference room. Salary Board meetings will be held the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 9 a.m., with Prison Board meetings held at 8:30 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month, all in the conference room.