WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf last week took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a market-based collaboration among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change while generating economic growth.
“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” Wolf said. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound and immediate steps to reduce emissions. Joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”
Participating states have agreed, either through regulation or legislation, to implement RGGI through a regional cap-and-trade program involving carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting electric power plants. These states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — set a cap on total CO2 emissions from electric power generators in their states.
In order to show compliance with the cap, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance,” for each ton of CO2, they emit. These purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI. The most recent RGGI auction held Sept. 4 resulted in an allowance price of $5.20 per ton. The proceeds from the auctions are allocated back to the participating states in proportion to the amount of carbon subject to regulation in each state.
“This initiative represents a unique opportunity for Pennsylvania to become a leader in combating climate change and grow our economy by partnering with neighboring states,” said Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. “As a major electricity producer, Pennsylvania has a significant opportunity to reduce emissions and demonstrate its commitment to addressing climate change through a program with a proven track record.”
The RGGI states have reduced power sector CO2 pollution by 45 percent since 2005, while the region’s per-capita GDP has continued to grow.
Pennsylvania exports nearly a third of the electricity it produces, and the cost of RGGI compliance for exported electricity will be paid by electric customers in the states where that electricity is ultimately used.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, applauded Wolf’s executive order on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
“Climate change is a real, priority level one threat to our environment that deserves the full attention of the legislature that this executive action will require,” Yudichak said. “As DEP begins their outreach, it will be vitally important for them to have an open dialogue with the legislature and I look forward to participating in discussions to effectively and swiftly deal with climate change.”
Reducing CO2 emissions
Reducing CO2 emissions as part of combating climate change is a top priority for the Wolf Administration. In January, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order to set Pennsylvania’s first statewide climate goals, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.
The scientific consensus is the planet is experiencing climate change in real time, and the impacts are felt everywhere. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update found that Pennsylvania has undergone a long-term warming over the prior 110 years, and that current warming trends are expected to increase at an accelerated rate with average temperatures projected to increase an additional 5.4 degrees by 2050. Average annual precipitation has also increased by approximately 10 percent over the past 100 years and, by 2050, is expected to increase by an additional 8 percent.
The numerous negative effects of these warming and wetting trends are currently being experienced in Pennsylvania. Last year was the wettest year on record in the commonwealth, and these increases in rainfall resulted in extreme weather events and flooding throughout the state costing residents an estimated $144 million in reported damages, and at least $125 million in state-maintained road and bridges damage throughout the state.
House Republicans urge
Wolf not to go it alone
House Republican leaders said the regulation of carbon dioxide presents significant impacts on the economy, the environment and on the bottom line for Pennsylvania families.
“The people of our Commonwealth, as represented and heard through the General Assembly, have the absolute right to review, approve or disapprove any plan that has such far reaching implications. This move calls for another new energy fee on Pennsylvanians,” the GOP statement said. “Taxpayers will pay more every time they flip a switch, make breakfast or charge their phone.
“We strongly disagree with Gov. Wolf’s continued practice of go-it-alone approaches that are unhelpful in working cooperatively to move our Commonwealth forward in a way that best represents the interests of all Pennsylvanians.
“Our state is not an autocracy, and one-sided decisions as significant as this leave out the important voices of Pennsylvania workers, communities and families whose livelihood is built upon important sectors of our energy economy. Pennsylvania’s energy sector is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% in recent years according to some estimates, and the industry is doing this without burdensome regulations.
“We believe the executive branch cannot bind the state into multi-state agreements without the approval of the General Assembly, and we plan to execute the fullest extent of our legislative power on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.”
State program will help
seniors live in their homes
The Wolf Administration this week announced a 14-county expansion of the Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) program, a long-term care program that helps seniors live in their home and coordinates their health and personal needs.
Through this expansion, LIFE programs, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services (DHS), will be established in Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Fulton, Jefferson, Monroe, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Wayne Counties.
“All Pennsylvanians deserve to age in place in their community with family and peers as they are able. LIFE programs around Pennsylvania help make this possible,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are pleased to be able to bring the LIFE program to more Pennsylvanians around the commonwealth.”
Many older Pennsylvanians wish to continue living in their homes and their communities for as long as economically and medically feasible; and Pennsylvania’s LIFE program enables participants to stay out of nursing homes and remain in their own homes and communities and live happier, more productive, and more fulfilling lives.
Pennsylvanians reminded to
protect information online
In the face of more frequent data breaches and cyber attacks affecting governments and businesses, the Wolf administration is reminding Pennsylvanians about the need to protect their information online.
The Protecting Yourself Online guide, available on PA.gov, provides information to help prevent identity theft and other cyber crimes, as well as resources and advice on what to do if you become a victim. You can help to secure your personal information by:
• Installing firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and keeping them up to date. Many software programs and operating systems can be set to automatically update when new versions are available.
• Using strong passwords that include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not reuse passwords or use the same password for multiple accounts. There are password management programs available that can help you keep track of all your account credentials.
• Thinking before you click. Do not open email or related attachments from untrusted sources. When in doubt, delete.
• Avoiding public WiFi hot spots, such as those offered by retailers and at other locations, whenever possible. Do not transmit or receive personal information while using public WiFi.
• Educating yourself about popular online scams, such as ransom-ware and phishing, and how to recognize them.
Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed October as “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” to encourage all Pennsylvanians to take proactive steps to protect themselves online.