BLUE PENNSYLVANIA – EARTH DAY SPECIAL
Happy Earth Day,
This is the happiest Earth Day that we have had in many years. On Joe Biden’s first day in office, he re-established the United States as a participant in the Paris Accords, which calls for limiting global average temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius.
If only things were that easy at the State level.
In October, 2019, Wolf issued an executive order to enroll Pennsylvania in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based approach designed to cut greenhouse gases through a system of attaining and trading incentives (credits) to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
The following February, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) submitted a draft plan to join the RGGI, and this past December,
the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) issued its first regulation on how carbon dioxide emitting plants can obtain carbon credits.
Republicans in the General Assembly, meanwhile, were trying to put the brakes on the entire RGGI development. Jim Struzzi (HD 62, Indiana) introduced HB 2025, which would have not only prevented membership in RGGI, but would have also removed the DEP’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
The bill passed both the House and Senate, roughly along party lines, but unsurprisingly, was vetoed by the Governor.
What is most remarkable, however, about the anti-RGGI legislators is not their votes, but their reasoning. The chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee – Daryl Metcalfe (PA HD 12, Butler) – still has a Youtube video available on his Facebook page, showing him musing upon a world without vegetables if we were to eliminate man-made carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Senate Environmental Chair Gene Yaw (SD 23, Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union), has probably been the most vocal critic of the initiative, with some rather imaginative arguments. Since RGGI ultimately depends upon renewable energy sources, Mr. Yaw makes the valid claim that “without fossil fuel there is no clean or green energy” since oil/gas/coal are needed to build the initial solar panels or wind turbines. He conveniently omits, however, that solar cells and windmills could supply the energy necessary to assemble all subsequent equipment.
In contrast to Mr. Yaw’s fantasy world, the real world is a place where fossil fuel companies are becoming more dependent upon renewables to save money on their operations. The purpose of the largest solar installation in Philadelphia is to provide the necessary energy to power the liquefied natural gas plant at the PGW Passyunk site in South Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the owner of South Jersey Gas, one of New Jersey’s largest gas utilities, announced this week that it will install solar panels on all of its facilities.
This past February, Yaw had written an op-ed entitled “For Sneak Peak of Wolf’s Energy Policies, Mosey on Down to Texas”, where he repeated Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s assertion that wind turbines were the cause of the winter power outages in the Lone Star State. A full analysis, however, blames lack of proper winterization across all power sources – both fossil fuels and renewables; as well as the state’s inability to acquire energy from sources outside of its independent power grid.
But bringing Texas into the conversation is nevertheless interesting on at least one other count, and that is with regard to how much money we export to that state by letting their oil companies – Anadarko, Cabot Oil & Gas, Range Resources, Southwestern Energy – extract our natural gas and pollute our state – free of change. That means more money for Texas – money that is used to fund their public schools rather than ours, and money that has been used to sue Pennsylvania for unsubstantiated election fraud.
Most recently, Yaw has introduced a bill entitled the Solar Environmental Justice Act (talk about putting lipstick on a pig), which would require that solar panels and their components to be manufactured within the United States. The bill is ostensibly aimed at those panels manufactured in “Communist China” which use “rare earth minerals that are mined without proper environmental standards …“ It is unclear why Mr. Yaw suddenly has an interest in China meeting environmental standards for rare earth minerals when he has fought Pennsylvania’s DEP over enforcing stricter guidelines for the amount of manganese that coal mine companies can dump in Pennsylvania’s streams. Manganese in excessive amounts can cause permanent neurological damage and children are very sensitive to the effects of the element.
The challenge to RGGI, however, is far from over. In January, State Senator Joe Pittman (SD 41, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana, Westmoreland) introduced SB 119, which would remove the governor’s authority to institute RGGI. As of this writing, a vote is believed to be imminent.
To combat greenhouse gases, we need to create green State houses – both upper and lower – in the General Assembly. K.C. Tomlinson (HD 18, Bucks), Meghan Schroeder (HD 29, Bucks), Frank Farry (HD 142, Bucks), Tim Hennessey (HD 26, Chester, Montco), Todd Polinchock (HD 144, Bucks), Craig Staats (HD 145, Bucks), Martina White (HD 170, Philadelphia), Bob Mensch (SD 24, Berks, Bucks, Montco) and Robert Tomlinson (SD 6, Bucks) were the legislators from our area who voted for HB 2025. Bob Mensch is also a co-sponsor of SB 119. All of these legislators are up for re-election in 2022.
That means we need to vote them out of office, and to do that we first need to make certain that people are registered to vote, and have access to the ballot box. Here’s how you can help to make those things happen.