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UPDATE: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Garnered Myriad Comments; EQB Again Reviewing

Several months ago, we blogged about the proposed rulemaking by Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board (the EQB) that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from large fossil-fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs) by implementing a cap-and-trade program.  

The proposed rulemaking would also enable Pennsylvania to join RGGI, otherwise known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  

RGGI is a consortium of 11 states in the northeastern United States that have implemented similar cap-and-trade programs to limit EGUs’ carbon dioxide emissions, with interstate trading of carbon dioxide emissions allowances being permitted within the RGGI.

Since we last blogged, the proposed rulemaking has advanced through the regulatory process that included a public comment period for residents to weigh in. GASP was among those who submitted formal comments.

In them, we suggested the EQB should expand its description of the benefits from the proposed rule and that the proposed rulemaking better describe the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that might be eligible to receive funds derived from the sale of certain unused CO2 credits.

We also noted that fees imposed on fossil fuel-fired EGUs in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties for carbon dioxide allowances under the proposed rulemaking must be deposited in restricted accounts administered by ACHD and AMS, to use on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in those counties. 

Since then – on Feb. 16 – Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (the IRRC) published its comments on the proposed rulemaking.  

The IRRC noted that it had received comments both strongly in favor of, and strongly opposed to, the proposed rulemaking. The IRRC further asked the EQB to elaborate on several issues raised by those comments before promulgating a final rule, including:

  • Whether the proposed rulemaking would make such a significant change to the existing regulatory structure for fossil-fuel-fired EGUs that it must be implemented through legislation passed by the General Assembly rather than through an administrative rulemaking;
  • Whether the EQB has the authority to promulgate the proposed rulemaking at all under the authority granted to it by Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act;
  • Whether the anticipated costs of the proposed rulemaking exceed its anticipated benefits, especially given that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired. EGUs in Pennsylvania have been trending downward for many years without such a rulemaking;
  • Whether the assumptions underlying the proposed rulemaking (which have not been fully disclosed by the EQB) are supported by acceptable data;
  • Whether the EQB underestimated the adverse economic impacts from the proposed rulemaking; and 
  • Whether there exist less costly means of achieving the proposed rulemaking’s goals. 

Additionally, the IRRC requested that the EQB delay the implementation of the rulemaking for a year to allow the business community affected by the rulemaking to better plan for its implementation.

The proposed rulemaking now heads back to the EQB, which will review the comments submitted on the rulemaking and may revise the rulemaking based on those comments.  Once the EQB drafts (and presumably adopts) a final-form rulemaking, it will be resubmitted to the IRRC and the House and Senate Energy and Environmental Resources Committees for further review and possible approval. 

“We look forward to seeing how the Wolf Administration responds to the IRRC’s comments,” GASP senior staff attorney John Baillie said. “ The opportunity to better regulate GHG emissions from these large polluters should not be wasted.”

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