In a Commonwealth Court decision issued November 1, 2023, the Court permanently blocked the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative known by its acronym of RGGI. The Court found that because the General Assembly never approved Pennsylvania’s entry into the multi-state compact, an administrative determination was not sufficient because the program imposes a tax on carbon and only the Legislature can approve a tax. Pa’s former Governor, Tom Wolf argued that he was authorized under Pennsylvania’s Clean Air Act to join an organization like RGGI, but the Court rejected that argument.
The Commonwealth Court decision is appealable to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but it is not certain that the new administration of Governor Josh Shapiro will take up the sword and fight this battle once more. Governor Shapiro has not yet injected himself in any substantial way into the politics of energy in Pennsylvania and his next move will be critical to him convincing his base that he is a champion for clean energy, while not alienating the fossil fuel industry. This issue will demonstrate whether he is able to navigate Pennsylvania’s murky political waters on the topic of energy. If the rumors are true that Josh Shapiro has higher political ambitions, he will need to establish some credibility with the environmental community that he will carry the clean and renewable energy torch. With RGGI finally off the front burner, assuming Shapiro leaves it to die by not appealing the Commonwealth Court decision, it would be wise of him to have another initiative ready to go in its stead.
By: Todd S. Stewart