Regional Greenhouse Gas Regulations Delayed By Possibly Illegal Vote by PA House of Reps
Today we bring you the latest chapter in the saga of Pennsylvania’s journey to bring the Keystone State into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI ).
We last told you about this increasingly bizarre story in early November. But in recent weeks there have been several interesting developments and we wanted to bring you up to speed on them.
So quick history lesson before we get to the new stuff: In early December, news outlets reported that the state Attorney General’s Office approved the “form and legality” of the regulations that will implement RGGI. It should be noted that the approval occurred despite Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s earlier expressed reservations regarding RGGI.
“Ordinarily, approval by the Attorney General’s Office is the next-to-last step to occur before a regulation becomes effective – the final publication of the regulations in the Pennsylvania Bulletin is the last step,” GASP senior staff attorney John Baillie explained. “Yet, despite the Attorney General’s Office’s reported approval of the RGGI regulations, the regulations have yet to be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.”
The delay in publication might be due to a Dec. 5 vote to disapprove the regulations by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which followed the *approval* of the regulations by the Attorney General’s Office.
And like so much of this saga: Such a vote was itself unusual.
Why? We’ll let John explain:
“The law that controls the adoption of new regulations in Pennsylvania – the Commonwealth Documents Law – does give the Pennsylvania House and Senate the power to vote to disapprove new regulations, but provides that the vote is by the relevant House and Senate Committees,” Baillie said. “For RGGI, it’s the standing committees on Energy and the Environment, which must vote within a specified time after the regulations are finalized by the relevant administrative department – here, the Environmental Quality Board.”
In this case, the committee vote should have been held on or before Oct. 2, 2021. Regardless of the House vote’s legality, however, the disapproval was not by a large enough margin to withstand a veto by Gov. Tom Wolf.
So what happens now? Presumably, Wolf will veto the House’s disapproval of the RGGI regulations and the regulations will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. After that? The action will likely move to the courts.
“We expect extensive legal challenges to the regulations in court, which could further delay their implementation by months or even years,” Baillie explained. “Opponents of RGGI claim that the regulations impose a tax, which only the General Assembly – not the EQB or the governor – has the constitutional power to levy, and that the Environmental Quality Board lacks the statutory authority to adopt the regulation under Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act.”
We will continue to follow this story and keep you posted as new developments occur.