Pennsylvania tussles with own state agency over new carbon-pricing rule

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A worker removes waste rock from anthracite coal at Superior Coal Preparation Plant in Hegins, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Dane Rhys

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  • Legislative agency refuses to publish governor's rule that would cap carbon emissions
  • Pennsylvania is fifth-largest emitting power sector nationwide

(Reuters) - Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has sued a state agency for refusing to publish a regulation that would make Pennsylvania, a major fossil-fuel producing state, adopt a carbon-pricing policy.

Publication of a carbon-dioxide budget trading program approved by the governor and the DEP in the state's law register would trigger its implementation. According to DEP's complaint filed Thursday in state court, no law "vest(s) the LRB with discretion to ... decide whether regulations are appropriate to publish."

Implementing the regulation would allow the state's governor, Tom Wolf, to deliver on his promise to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multistate, market-based cap-and-trade scheme.

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DEP alleges that the LRB twice refused requests to publish the rule, the last step in establishing a program to limit carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants in Pennsylvania.

The directors of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and the register cited a state House of Representatives resolution disapproving the regulation to explain their decision, the complaint says.

David Taylor, the president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, said that the regulation would "destroy" many of the state's power plants "by rendering them uneconomical."

Doug Vine, a director of energy analysis at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a think tank, said that Pennsylvania's addition to RGGI would be "very significant" given it has the fifth-largest emitting power sector nationwide.

Vince DeLiberato, LRB's director, declined to comment.

The DEP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Patrick J. McDonnell et al. v. Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, No. N/A.

For Patrick J. McDonnell et al.: David Pittinsky of Ballard Spahr

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Governor wants Pennsylvania to join greenhouse gas reduction program

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New York-based correspondent covering environmental, climate and energy litigation.