Court stalls ecocratic RGGI pig in a poke

Court stalls ecocratic RGGI pig in a poke

Perhaps the rule of law – and common sense, not to mention the facts – will prevail after all.

Late Tuesday, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania blocked Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to fight “climate change” through an onerous and government-concocted “carbon pricing policy.”

In an unsigned one-line order, the court said it will not allow the official publication of the regulation required for implementation “pending further order of the court.”

Republicans who control the state Legislature – but who could not muster a super-majority to overturn Wolf’s veto of their legislation halting implementation – asked the appeals court to stay implementation until all legal matters have been resolved.

It continues to argue Wolf’s “carbon pricing policy” is, among other things, a tax in disguise. And it being a tax, that means only the Legislature can impose it, which the majority adamantly opposes.

Whether this represents the beginning of the end for the horrible public policy known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Keystone State remains premature. But it is a most welcome hurdle in the Wolf administration’s head-first rush to destroy Pennsylvania’s economy.

The court’s order is the second blow in as many weeks to the attempted seizure of the energy marketplace by a gubernatorial administration hell bent on commanding “green” energy into the mix, no matter the cost.

And that cost would be economy-choking.

As detailed last week by various news outlets, a report from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) says the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s model for the already suspect RGGI would cost energy producers much more than initial estimates suggested.

That new figure? Nearly $800 million for the purchase of “emissions credits” at RGGI auctions. And how might this affect electric rates for consumers?

As The Times Leader newspaper of Wilkes-Barre reported it:

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, “said the $781 million represents a carbon tax on residents that will increase electricity rates, potentially as much as 277 percent (emphasis added) above the [Wolf] administration’s estimates and unravel every other assumption the modeling made — from reduced emissions to green energy investment to our generation mix and electricity exports.”

Quoting Yaw:

“The IFO’s findings confirm my worst fears about the administration’s hasty push to join RGGI. The cost of this program will cripple our economy at a time when we can least afford it.”

As if we ever can afford an ill-conceived ecocratic exercise in command economics in the name of installing and funding a social re-engineering program.

Or as state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, added:

“Growing evidence from economists and environmental scientists suggest that RGGI will devastate Pennsylvania’s energy industry, dramatically increase energy costs for every consumer and produce no material gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

To that point, The Center Square website reports this additional IFO finding:

“Among the 10 original states that formed RGGI, power generation fell 15 percent and emissions fell 47 percent from 2008 to 2020. In Pennsylvania, without (emphasis added) RGGI, generation rose 3.5 percent while emissions fell by 42 percent” during the same period.

And we “need” RGGI why?

“RGGI maintains that its cap-and-trade program is market-based,” the Allegheny Institute’s Elizabeth Miller and Frank Gamrat noted (in Policy Brief Vol. 19, No. 37).

“But the mechanisms it uses—such as setting a minimum price called the “reserve price” and other market interventions like “cost containment reserve” and “emissions containment reserve” —are not characteristic of free-market mechanisms,” the researchers remind.

Continued Miller, a think tank research associate, and Gamrat, the institute’s executive director, then:

“The increased energy prices for taxpayers, loss of jobs due to mounting energy costs and second-order effects resulting from higher electricity costs are strong arguments against joining RGGI.

“Joining RGGI would be an ill-advised decision that would undermine much of the economic and environmental success the state has enjoyed in the last decade thanks to natural gas production in the electricity market.”

Then as now.

A challenge to Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019 executive order to unilaterally join RGGI failed in the state Senate on Monday. The Republican-controlled body did not have the votes to overturn Wolf’s veto of the Legislature’s RGGI rejection.

But now the courts have intervened. And this mess is, perhaps only temporarily, on hold.

But even if a court ultimately rules that Wolf had the authority via existing environmental law to set such a damaging carbon pricing policy and join RGGI, and that it is not a “tax” – the crux of the debate at hand — that won’t change the bottom line:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative remains an ecocratic pig in a poke.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).