A House committee vote on Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI, a nine-state plan to limit carbon emissions through cap-and-trade efforts, devolved into discussions over executive powers and overreach by the governor on Tuesday.
The House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee voted 16-8 to advance HB 2025 or the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap-and-Trade Authorization Act, which would require legislative approval before joining a multi-state agreement.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, said the measure was “essential” to giving a voice back to the people of Pennsylvania.
GOP Reps. Donna Oberlander, of Clarion County; Jeffrey Pyle, of Armstrong County, and Cris Dush, of Jefferson County, all signed their name to the bill, along with Greene County Democrat Pam Snyder.
Calling the governor “Dictator Wolf,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said Wolf made the decision to enter Pennsylvania into the RGGI agreement “unilaterally” before calling the proposal a “regulatory scheme.”
If passed, Struzzi’s bill would require a public comment period of no less than 180 days with a minimum of four public hearings, and a full report on the proposal to both chamber committees.
On Monday, Wolf defended RGGI to reporters, calling the proposal “a reasonable, free-market approach to climate change.”
“RGGI is a business approach to solving this problem,” Wolf told journalists during a news conference.
While House Republicans accused the Democratic governor of overstepping his executive powers, Wolf told reporters that it is “the role of the state government” to make the transition for workers in the energy sector easier.
Citing his experience as a former businessman, Wolf said all businesses should have a “vested interest in technological improvements” and dismissed the notion that fear of job loss should hamper Pennsylvania’s efforts to combat climate change.
“To the extent we are kept from doing that by the perceived self-interest of the worker – then that’s a problem,” Wolf said. “We all need to address the issue of climate change.”
The House committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Greg Vitali, of Delaware County, called out the General Assembly’s failure to act on climate change.
“Legislatively, Pennsylvania has done nothing meaningful to combat climate change,” Vitali said.
Vitali called the bill “ill-considered” and said he expects Wolf to veto the measure.