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Guv revives, revises carbon cap-and-trade

Appearing March 13 at a Scranton union hall, Gov. Josh Shapiro laid out plans for speeding up Pennsylvania’s shift to cleaner forms of electricity while creating jobs and capping carbon emissions from the power sector.

  • The plans aim to bridge differences that have long divided environmentalists, labor groups, lawmakers and others with a stake in state energy policy.
  • While it calls for greater production of solar and wind power, for example, it also carves out room for nuclear energy and what it describes as “ultra-low emission forms of natural gas.”
  • The plans also include a state-focused, market-based program to cut carbon, replacing Pennsylvania’s participation in a regional program that is tied up in litigation.

Why is this happening: Underpinning the plans is a recognition that Pennsylvania is the top exporter of energy in the U.S.

  • “That’s a unique position of strength and it is a unique opportunity for all of us, if we seize this moment,” said Shapiro, who has faced criticism over energy and environmental policies during his first year in office.
  • But the plans also are born from what Shapiro described as the state’s lagging position in energy, an industry that is a key plank in his economic-development strategy.
  • “We’re losing out on new investment and we’re losing out when it comes to innovation and it means, importantly, we are losing out on jobs if we do nothing,” Shapiro said, claiming his plans would create 14,500 jobs.

HowPrimarily through two new programs: the Pennsylvania Reliable Energy Sustainable Standards, or PRESS; and the Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act, or PACER.

  • PRESS would replace the state’s nearly 20-year-old Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which currently requires that 8% of Pennsylvania power come from wind, solar and other renewable sources.
  • If approved, the PRESS program would set a goal of 50% by 2035 while broadening the sources it covers to include battery storage, clean natural gas and small nuclear reactors, a technology under development in Pittsburgh.
  • The PACER program would create a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program in which former Gov. Tom Wolf tried to enroll Pennsylvania.
  • Shapiro’s program, however, would be Pennsylvania-focused.
  • “We will not take direction from anyone outside of this commonwealth,” Shapiro said. “We will set our own cap. We will set our own price.”
  • Under the program, power plants pay annually for the right to emit carbon.
  • Shapiro said he would direct 70% of the money raised to ensure electric bills stay the same — or fall — for Pennsylvania consumers.
  • He would invest the remainder in large energy plants, such as the shuttered Homer City coal plant in western Pennsylvania.

Is there more: Yes. Shapiro’s plan includes two initiatives that are already under way.

What’s next: Shapiro said his legislative allies expect to introduce bills for the PACER and PRESS programs next week.

  • Democrats in control of the state House embraced the energy proposals, which follow ambitious proposals on higher education, public transit and economic development.
  • But state Sen. Joe Pittman, who leads the Republican majority in the Senate, was critical, particularly of the carbon component.
  • “Any cap-and-trade program applying solely to electric generation in Pennsylvania and not our competitors does not fit the bill,” Pittman said in a statement.
  • He also called on Shapiro to drop his administration’s appeal of a court ruling that voided Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI.
  • In his appearance yesterday, Shapiro said his focus was on the new plan, not RGGI.

What’s the difference: Former Gov. Tom Wolf tried to enact RGGI through administrative processes.

  • Shapiro is going through the divided legislature, at least for now.
  • Commonwealth Court ruled that requiring utilities to purchase carbon credits amounts to a tax, which needs legislative approval.

Gov. Josh Shapiro unveiled new energy and environmental proposals in Scranton. (photo/submitted)

Appearing March 13 at a Scranton union hall, Gov. Josh Shapiro laid out plans for speeding up Pennsylvania’s shift to cleaner forms of electricity while creating jobs and capping carbon emissions from the power sector.

  • The plans aim to bridge differences that have long divided environmentalists, labor groups, lawmakers and others with a stake in state energy policy.
  • While it calls for greater production of solar and wind power, for example, it also carves out room for nuclear energy and what it describes as “ultra-low emission forms of natural gas.”
  • The plans also include a state-focused, market-based program to cut carbon, replacing Pennsylvania’s participation in a regional program that is tied up in litigation.

Why is this happening: Underpinning the plans is a recognition that Pennsylvania is the top exporter of energy in the U.S.

  • “That’s a unique position of strength and it is a unique opportunity for all of us, if we seize this moment,” said Shapiro, who has faced criticism over energy and environmental policies during his first year in office.
  • But the plans also are born from what Shapiro described as the state’s lagging position in energy, an industry that is a key plank in his economic-development strategy.
  • “We’re losing out on new investment and we’re losing out when it comes to innovation and it means, importantly, we are losing out on jobs if we do nothing,” Shapiro said, claiming his plans would create 14,500 jobs.

HowPrimarily through two new programs: the Pennsylvania Reliable Energy Sustainable Standards, or PRESS; and the Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act, or PACER.

  • PRESS would replace the state’s nearly 20-year-old Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which currently requires that 8% of Pennsylvania power come from wind, solar and other renewable sources.
  • If approved, the PRESS program would set a goal of 50% by 2035 while broadening the sources it covers to include battery storage, clean natural gas and small nuclear reactors, a technology under development in Pittsburgh.
  • The PACER program would create a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program in which former Gov. Tom Wolf tried to enroll Pennsylvania.
  • Shapiro’s program, however, would be Pennsylvania-focused.
  • “We will not take direction from anyone outside of this commonwealth,” Shapiro said. “We will set our own cap. We will set our own price.”
  • Under the program, power plants pay annually for the right to emit carbon.
  • Shapiro said he would direct 70% of the money raised to ensure electric bills stay the same — or fall — for Pennsylvania consumers.
  • He would invest the remainder in large energy plants, such as the shuttered Homer City coal plant in western Pennsylvania.

Is there more: Yes. Shapiro’s plan includes two initiatives that are already under way.

What’s next: Shapiro said his legislative allies expect to introduce bills for the PACER and PRESS programs next week.

  • Democrats in control of the state House embraced the energy proposals, which follow ambitious proposals on higher education, public transit and economic development.
  • But state Sen. Joe Pittman, who leads the Republican majority in the Senate, was critical, particularly of the carbon component.
  • “Any cap-and-trade program applying solely to electric generation in Pennsylvania and not our competitors does not fit the bill,” Pittman said in a statement.
  • He also called on Shapiro to drop his administration’s appeal of a court ruling that voided Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI.
  • In his appearance yesterday, Shapiro said his focus was on the new plan, not RGGI.

What’s the difference: Former Gov. Tom Wolf tried to enact RGGI through administrative processes.

  • Shapiro is going through the divided legislature, at least for now.
  • Commonwealth Court ruled that requiring utilities to purchase carbon credits amounts to a tax, which needs legislative approval.

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