The Bark - Edition 19

The Bark is your early warning system. A signal that bad corporate actors are trying to bend the rules or pollute without accountability. It’s a heads up that anti-environmental forces in Harrisburg or Washington, D.C. are trying to eliminate environmental protections or give handouts to polluters. The Bark is PennFuture ringing the alarm bells to alert the general public of major attacks on our clean air, clean water, public land, and climate. We hope we don’t have to send you The Bark often, but we’ll be sure to keep you informed as we watchdog Pennsylvania’s polluters.

Welcome back to another edition of The Bark. 

In The Bark’s previous edition, we alerted you to another fossil fuel industry scheme to gobble up taxpayer dollars so that Pennsylvania keeps fracking: turning fracked gas into gasoline.

In this edition, we want to warn you about dangerous legislation that has been amended in Harrisburg that would bar Pennsylvania from enacting any kind of carbon reduction program here, which in turn could block the Commonwealth potentially linking with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. For a primer on RGGI, be sure to check out this article that explains the basics. 

To be sure, the fossil fuel industry and their supporters in the General Assembly have been doing everything in their power to keep the Commonwealth from linking to RGGI over the last two years. This latest attempt is the most dangerous attack to date - promising to direct funding to non-climate programs that still address environmental issues like clean water and energy issues, but with the added caveat of prohibiting Pennsylvania’s ability to address climate pollution in the future. 

This latest attempt is disingenuous and more about political maneuvering and games than any real interest in investing in our environment and natural resources.

The legislation we’re talking about is HB 637, and its companion bill in the Senate called SB 119. The House version was amended last week in Harrisburg to include $250 million that would go toward research and development of carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, as well as money for water infrastructure projects, and workers and communities impacted by power plant closures. 

It’s critically important to point out that this $250 million is a one-time infusion using federal COVID pandemic money that lawmakers should be investing anyway, but would come at the cost of Pennsylvania linking with RGGI or enacting a statewide carbon reduction policy. 

In other words, the bill sponsors are offering a deal: on one hand, bar Pennsylvania from linking with RGGI and, in the process, stop cutting climate pollution from fossil fuel power plants and eliminate an annual revenue stream to invest in Pennsylvania’s long-term energy future. On the other hand, we’ll invest $250 million in a few important programs that should already be getting investments anyway.

Pennsylvania should reject this deal and call this what it is: an attempt to siphon votes away from lawmakers who support RGGI by dangling money for programs the legislature should largely be investing in anyway. 

Cutting to the chase, the real issue is that the deal won’t cut carbon emissions at all and rejects important climate action that is badly needed. Science tells us that immediate and real action must be taken to reduce our carbon footprint before it’s too late to act. A carbon reduction program similar to RGGI would help us more easily reach those goals in Pennsylvania, while it could also provide a regular, annual infusion of nearly $200 million into Pennsylvania as a result of revenues gleaned from pollution allowances. 

That’s why this amended bill is such a bad deal. If a carbon reduction program is implemented in Pennsylvania - and if lawmakers enact legislation proposed by Sen. Carolyn Comitta and Rep. Dianne Herrin that dictates how RGGI proceeds can be spent - then instead of a one-time infusion of federal cash, Pennsylvania will have about $200 million annually that can be spent on our environmental justice communities and worker transition as they move away from dirty energy. That kind of money can have real, long-lasting impacts and be counted on as an annual windfall instead of a one-time attempt to buy lawmakers’ votes away from RGGI. 

As previously mentioned, RGGI opponents aren’t interested in our environment, our natural resources or climate change. They are only interested in demonizing environmental advocates, in this case pitting RGGI supporters against conservationists, some of whom support this money going toward water infrastructure without realizing what would have to be given up in the process. It’s cut-and-burn politics at its worst.

To be clear, there has been nothing standing in the way of these bill sponsors proposing how they would spend RGGI pollution allowance revenue, or crafting their own plan for cutting carbon pollution. And this isn’t an attempt at doing either of those things. Rather, it’s a sly move to undermine Pennsylvania’s ability to diversify and clean up its energy sector.

Do your part today and contact your elected officials in the state House of Representatives and tell them the truth about this amended legislation: it has nothing to do with our environment and conservation, and everything to do with a veiled attempt to kill the one program we can count on to lower carbon pollution in Pennsylvania. 

Don’t let these opponents of RGGI succeed with this smoke-and-mirrors approach. Our future is too important to be held hostage with political games and intentional attempts to distract from the real issue at hand. 

Please do what you can to tell our lawmakers that this amended legislation is unacceptable, and please continue to support Pennsylvania’s attempts to join RGGI.


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