Pennsylvania law now requires state legislature approval of any state-developed carbon-dioxide reduction plan before it is submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under its proposed Clean Power Plan rule.
House Bill 2354, called the Pennsylvania Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act, passed both chambers by overwhelming margins before being signed by into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on October 22, 2014.
“Effective immediately, Pennsylvania will craft its energy strategy to reduce greenhouse gases,” said the author of the legislation, State Rep. Pam Snyder, in a press release. “The commonwealth will advance using 21st century technologies and employing the state’s unique blend of resources and experience.”
On June 2, 2014, the Obama administration proposed mandating a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 from U.S. power plants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, the proposal, also known as the Clean Power Plan, “provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation.”
As EPA has been developing these guidelines, state legislatures’ responses have varied widely, but the fact steep emissions cuts could be enacted without congressional approval is proving controversial on both sides of the aisle. With Act 175, Snyder, a Democrat, hopes to bring some much-needed democratic review to a process which so far has experienced none, she says.
“While the EPA managed to develop its emissions mandate without congressional authorization, the Pennsylvania General Assembly will have its say on any plan submitted to Washington, DC,” said Snyder.
Opponents of Pennsylvania’s law include many of the nation’s major environmental activist groups, who argue the law adds an unnecessary roadblock to emissions cuts.
Rep. Snyder disagrees, telling Environment & Climate News Act 175 does nothing to stop or undermine the Clean Power Plan regulation. Instead, it just modifies the process to better serve Pennsylvanians who may be affected by the regulations, she says.
“[M]y legislation guarantees Pennsylvania will have a state plan—with direct input from the elected members of the General Assembly—and that the plan will be built on a least-cost basis with an additional focus on electric reliability. This pro-consumer approach balances all of Pennsylvania’s interests,” said Snyder.
Snyder says environmental activists and companies who oppose Act 175 may for be doing so for self-serving reasons.
“Since the EPA’s greenhouse gas rule goes beyond simply regulating carbon dioxide, there are organizations, companies, and business which stand to benefit greatly, depending on how the state plan is written, and who would like to use the state plan as an energy policy to advance their particular interests,” said Snyder.
“Act 175 of 2014 ensures that the voices of all regulators, residents, businesses, and environmental advocacy groups that will be impacted by these new regulations will be heard,” she added.
Taylor Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org), is a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute.