Pennsylvania’s Energy Future and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
One day after Earth Day 2022, Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reference Bureau published final rules and regulations for a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Budget Trading Program, marking Pennsylvania’s official alignment with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, nicknamed “Reggie”). Over two years have passed since Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2019-07 to initiate a robust rulemaking and public outreach process to advance the decarbonization of electricity generation and fulfill an important component of Pennsylvania’s Climate Action Plan. The comments and testimony in response to this rule from across the Commonwealth signify the complexities of our energy choices, and the importance of our collective energy future.
RGGI is a multi-state, “cap-and-trade” program that reduces CO2 emissions from qualified electric power plants. Under the program, power plants either reduce CO2 emissions in alignment with a CO2 “cap,” or “trade” CO2 emission allowances at auction. Proceeds from this decade-old cooperative have led to meaningful CO2 emission reductions and helped hundreds of thousands of low-income households and thousands of businesses that need support to improve operational efficiency. It has generated billions in returns for workforce development, clean energy, and greenhouse gas abatement programs.
Pennsylvania’s RGGI involvement promises meaningful decarbonization of our electricity systems while supporting the communities that have been experiencing the transitioning energy economy. The carbon credit market mechanism created by RGGI can support Energy Communities by guiding proceed investments into clean energy development projects that leverage the local workforce and attract talent, create jobs and grow local supply networks, and capitalize on the workforce development opportunities in Pennsylvania’s clean energy sector. For Environmental Justice Communities in Pennsylvania, RGGI can secure resources for long-term public participation programming and authentic community engagement with developers and businesses. RGGI proceeds can support a holistic approach to alleviating energy burdens and advance research and solutions that address the health impacts of power plants in environmental justice communities. RGGI can also enable the creation of an Environmental Justice Communities Trust Fund that could institutionalize the integration of environmental justice programs throughout Pennsylvania’s government so every agency and department can proactively address environmental injustices with reliable and trustworthy resources.
Over recent years, much focus has been placed on Pennsylvania’s energy choices and the future of our energy systems. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, Team Pennsylvania and, more recently, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, detail objectives and goals that aim to bolster our region’s energy options while leveraging the versatility of decarbonization. An important-to-emphasize commonality among each of these perspectives is that leadership from a broad scope of sectors is essential in shaping and shepherding the prospects of these energy choices. Building a fundamentally equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous region requires an all-of-the-above decarbonization strategy where stakeholders compete together under strategic partnerships to guarantee our region leaves nothing on the table. RGGI marks an important step towards forging a better future for all by more fully quantifying the inputs and outcomes of our energy choices while modernizing our approach to balancing energy costs, benefits, threats and tradeoffs. Aligning with RGGI is important for Pennsylvania to exhibit to others outside our region, such as the members of the Clean Energy Ministerials, that there is strong potential for broad, regional, multi-sector decarbonization in Pennsylvania.