The Lead

Metcalfe to join Pennsylvania panel that reviews plan for climate action

By: - December 5, 2019 4:59 pm

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, the most powerful House lawmaker on environmental matters, speaks at a DEP rule making board meeting.

One of the General Assembly’s most vocal climate change skeptics has been tapped to review state plans to combat rising global temperatures.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Butler County Republican who chairs the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, was appointed to the state’s Climate Change Advisory Council on Thursday, according to House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler’s office. 

Metcalfe, who took the reins of the House panel earlier this year, has made headlines for  holding hearings that have downplayed the potential impacts of climate change in the past year.

The advisory committee has no real policy making authority, outside of advising the creation of a statewide action plan on climate change and other climate matters, according to Neil Shader, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection.

A spokesman, Mike Straub, said in an email that Cutler, R-Lancaster, thinks Metcalfe’s chairmanship makes him “best suited to participate on the committee,” and that Metcalfe “should have the opportunity to be on the climate change advisory committee if [he is] willing and able.”

As the most powerful House lawmaker on environmental matters, Metcalfe has raised eyebrows — and the ire of environmentalists — over both his comments and the voices he spotlights — such as natural gas consultant and self-published author Gregory Wrightstone.

Speaking to the Capital-Star after a Metcalfe-helmed hearing in late October, a University of Pennsylvania climate scientist mused: “What kind of political process do we have here, where anybody is allowed to come and say anything crazy about the world?” 

Before becoming chairman, Metcalfe also called veterans campaigning against climate change “traitors,” defended rapidly climbing atmospheric carbon as “needed by our environment,” and he has frequently ridiculed climate “alarmism” as nothing more than a Democratic plot to increase taxes.

“It’s surprising that Daryl Metcalfe, who has let positive bills on climate change languish in his committee, would be appointed to advise on climate action,” Katie Blume, political director of Conservation Voters PA, told the Capital-Star.

According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists agree that human activity is causing the Earth to warm.

A federal report released last year estimated hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage, as well as widespread public health risks as a result of that warming. 

The report also said that immediate action to reduce carbon emissions “would be needed to avoid the most severe consequences in the long term.”

Pennsylvania’s own climate action report, reviewed by the climate advisory committee, called for an 80 percent reduction in Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions. The state currently emits about 250 million tons of carbon — equal to roughly one percent of global emissions.

The report, mandated by the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008, also requires the commonwealth to release state-level data on greenhouse gas emissions.

The 21-member climate advisory board established by the act includes appointees from both parties in the House and Senate as well as by the governor. 

According to the committee’s website, “appointed members are representatives from the scientific, business and industry, transportation, environmental, social, outdoor and sporting, labor and other affiliated communities.”

Current committee members include lobbyists for both fossil fuel and environmental groups, utility representatives, cabinet and Public Utility Commission officials, as well as two current lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, of Erie County, and Steve McCarter, of Montgomery County.

The bill establishing the committee, sponsored by a Republican senator, passed the upper chamber with just three no votes.

It then passed the House on a 176-24 vote. Cutler, Metcalfe, and House Speaker Mike Turzai voted against creating the panel.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.