(WHTM) – Former Governor Tom Wolf, in 2019, put Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), designed to charge polluters for their carbon emissions as a way to reduce pollution. But a state court struck that down on Wednesday in a blockbuster ruling.
This ten-page commonwealth court ruling is a red light to the greenhouse gas initiative. The opinion says that in order to pass constitutional muster, RGGI may only be achieved through legislation duly enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Adding that it’s an invalid tax and therefore void.
Representative Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said, “I think was a validation of the rule of law and our position that we’ve had all along. It is essentially a tax and that you can’t levy a tax through an executive order.”
Critics fear RGGI’s taxes would drive consumer electric bills up and energy companies out.
Cutler said, “We need to be a good place to do business and this would have made us a bad place with high energy costs.”
“Today’s ruling is not the final word on this matter, and we are confident that Pennsylvania can be and will be a leader in the clean energy economy once appealed,” said Katie Blume of the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.
The tax was ruled unconstitutional but environmental groups argue citizens also have a constitutional right to clean air clean water and clean energy which, they say, is big business.
“For everyone worried about jobs and the economy.RGGI is projected to create 30,000 jobs. Good paying jobs,” said John Kolesnik of Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance. “RGGI will deliver less pollution, more jobs, and a stronger economy for Pennsylvania.”
So dealing with climate change is back on the legislature, which has struggled to find consensus. House majority leader Matt Bradford said, “The environmental clock is ticking and the ruling, cannot be an excuse for further inaction. Our children and their children will be the judge of whether we heed this call.”
Governor Shapiro’s office said he’s reviewing the decision and in a statement, tried to bridge the divide saying he, “remains focused on addressing climate change, reducing emissions, and protecting public health while creating jobs and protecting consumers.”
Treasurer Stacy Garrity said, “I applaud the Commonwealth Court for this strong, clear decision. Governor Wolf’s attempt to enter RGGI outside of the legislative process was wrong from the start. Joining RGGI would have cost Pennsylvanians hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs – at a time when our hardworking families are already being hammered by continued high inflation. RGGI is wrong for Pennsylvania, and this should be the final word on the matter.”
Of course, the big question after the Commonwealth Court ruling is, will the governor appeal it to the Supreme Court? He has 30 days to do so.