As the email below from Katie Blume of Conservation Voters of PA explains, the PA Senate just voted to prevent the state from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program that has also greatly reduced greenhouse gases in adjoining states (RGGI-adopting states are shown in light green in the map below) and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for clean energy and the needed energy transition… elsewhere than PA.
Pennsylvania has contributed far more than its share of earth-heating gases and is doing far less than its share to fix the problem. For more background from Flora Cardoni of PennEnvironment, see here. A coal power plant is about to shut down in the PIttsburgh area, dumping its own workers with 30 days notice. Funds from RGGI would have retrained those workers for other jobs.
What can we do? See how your PA Senator voted on the anti-RGGI bill, SB 119, and send your opinion. As Katie’s email explains:
I have infuriating news. The state Senate passed a bill yesterday evening that would take away Pennsylvania’s power to join the carbon reduction program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which improves air quality and invests millions of dollars back into our public health. This bill could actually prevent the Department of Environmental Protection from working to reduce carbon pollution.
We deserve better than this. The passage of SB 119 would halt the pollution controls and economic benefits of RGGI that Pennsylvania communities and workers so desperately need. The decision is beyond reckless, especially since Pennsylvania consistently ranks in the top 5 states when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and has the most premature deaths per capita caused by air pollution of any state.
If we’re ever going to clean up our air and stave off climate change, Pennsylvania has got to change course and start implementing smart carbon reduction programs like RGGI. This cap-and-invest program will encourage companies to reduce their carbon emissions by putting a price on pollution. Those fees are expected to add $1.9 billion to the state’s economy by 2030, which would be invested back into PA communities and workers and generate a net increase of more than 27,000 jobs — many of which are sustainable, clean energy jobs. By putting a price tag on pollution, RGGI incentivizes energy producers to turn away from fossil fuels, cuts carbon, and proceeds will create investments in much needed energy efficiency programs to help reduce energy costs overall.
Having to pay to pollute isn’t popular with Big Polluters, and a misguided vote on SB 119 shows just how hard their lobbyists in Harrisburg are working to make sure that doesn’t happen. We’re holding accountable the lawmakers who put profits over the health of Pennsylvanians, and thanking the ones who were on the right side of history.
Report for Chester County Environmental Alliance, May, 2021, by Christi Marshall
I’d like to share a few encouraging statistics about the green revolution that is overtaking our waning reliance on fossil fuels.
Wind turbines currently provide over 9% of the energy in our country, and are our most prevalent form of renewable energy. I used to see the Empire State building every day out of my office window in Manhattan. So I was pleased to learn that this building, which includes so many offices that it is assigned its own ZIP Code, is now running completely on wind energy. The Empire State Realty Trust, which now owns the building, is committed to 100% wind turbine-generated energy purchased through Green Mountain Energy.
Since barely 2% of renewable energy is currently powering commercial buildings, this is an encouraging model.
One of the most prominent oil and gas mega giants, Exxon Mobil, often called the ultimate blue chip company, actually lost its place last year as one of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial Average. Their purchase several years ago of a major natural gas company has been an investment disaster. They are now $60 billion in the red. And now three of its largest shareholders, all major pension funds with total assets of $850 billion, are attempting to force the replacement of four board members with individuals interested in transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050. These three pension fund managers all agree that Exxon Mobil must achieve this goal for the sake of the planet as well as the bottom line.
The well-regarded International Energy Agency aligned with the Paris Climate Accords recently made the bombshell announcement that there is now no further need for continued exploration of oil and gas reserves
Wind turbine energy now costs about $9 per 1000 kWh, compared to $23 for natural gas. Predictions indicate that the cost of wind turbine energy will decline by 50% over the next few years.
The less we rely on natural gas, the less need there will be for pipelines to transmit them under pressure through our beautiful Chester County!
(Update: the effort to replace at least 2 independent members on the Exxon Mobil Board was successful!)
This interview was conducted by Nathaniel Smith by phone on 12/22/20 with Flora Cardoni, Field Director, PennEnvironment (at the mic in the photo). RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, pronounced like the name Reggie) is a major avenue for the Commonwealth and Pennsylvanians to do more in reducing carbon emissions.
• How do you see the overall climate problem faced by PA and the world?
Climate change is our greatest existential threat at this time! Pennsylvania has played a historical role as a leader in the extraction of fossil fuels and fracked gas. Our legacy is now part of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions problem. We’re already experiencing the impacts of climate change here in PA, including extreme weather events, more flash flooding, impaired air quality, excessive heat especially in urban areas, multiplication of harmful insects like Lyme-bearing ticks, loss of snow cover in ski resorts, and more. Impacts worldwide include widespread wildfires, hurricanes, and food insecurity, and these impacts will only worsen without action.
The science is clear: to stop the worst impacts of climate change, protect human health, and ensure a livable climate for future generations, we must transition away from fossil fuels like coal to 100% renewable energy. Polls show that a majority of Pennsylvanians want action to tackle climate change and we have the tools, technology, and policy to do so; all that’s lacking right now is the political will.
• How does RGGI work?
RGGI is a “cap and invest” program that caps carbon pollution from power plants (not other sources). Carbon emitters pay a fee for their pollution, designed to offset the external harms of emissions, with the money then invested in energy conservation, renewable energy, home weatherization and insulation, and other measures, including extra help for low-income people. Over the years, the cap on carbon is lowered and utilities bid at auction for the right to use the amount remaining under the cap, with emissions continuing to decrease.
Pennsylvania is the 4th largest carbon-emitting state in the country, after Texas, California, and Florida. Nationwide, transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution but here in PA, it’s power plants — a real threat to our air quality and public health. RGGI is a critical step in reducing this harmful power plant pollution, lowering climate emissions, and protecting our health.
• What has other states’ experience been with RGGI?
RGGI has had a huge track record of success over the last decade in many northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, from Maryland to Maine. Virginia and New Jersey are also in the process of joining.
RGGI has proven to be one of the country’s most successful programs to reduce carbon emissions. It has prevented about 100 million tons of carbon from going into the atmosphere each year while providing over $1.4 billion in net economic benefits in participating states.
By joining RGGI, Pennsylvania could cut over 188 million tons of carbon emissions by 2030 while creating 27,000 jobs and generating $2 billion for the state’s economy.
• Please explain Governor Wolf’s initiative and the current hearings
RGGI can be joined by executive action, which in October 2019 the Governor announced he planned to do. That started the regulatory process: the PA Department of Environmental Protection developed a draft that it sent to the Environmental Quality Board, which adopted it as a proposed regulation. Now we are in the period for public comments, which will be taken into account and included in the official record. We hope the process will be completed in time for PA to join its first carbon auction in January 2022.
Unfortunately, despite the majority of Pennsylvanians supporting the state joining RGGI, the majority in the PA legislature passed House Bill 2025 last session, which would prevent the PA DEP from joining this program or regulating carbon emissions at all. Gov. Wolf, for whom RGGI is a high priority, vetoed that bill. But that obstructive maneuver will likely resurface early in 2021, and it’s important for legislators to hear the public pushing against that bill and for the many good climate and clean energy bills being held up in unresponsive committees.
• What is PennEnvironment doing to help advance RGGI?
PennEnvironment and allied organizations are encouraging Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard in support of this program. About 70 PennEnvironment members and volunteers joined hundreds of Pennsylvanians who testified in the now-completed hearings, with 95% of total testifiers supporting RGGI. We are also working with volunteers to submit letters to the editors of local papers and with local elected officials to submit supportive comments. Finally, we’re collecting thousands of signatures and comments to submit during the comment period (closing date: January 14).
• What do the power companies say?
The coal industry is against it, as coal is the most polluting fuel. The renewable energy industry naturally favors RGGI, and so do the operators of nuclear power plants, which do not emit carbon.
• What is the situation with legislators in H’burg?
The legislature is divided. Many legislators oppose RGGI because fossil fuels have had such a large role here while others are supportive because they want climate action and cleaner air.
However, RGGI should not be a partisan issue and has received bipartisan support across the region. In Maryland, the Republican governor and Democratic-majority legislature support RGGI and speak highly of the program and all of its benefits. In southeastern PA, legislators of both parties are backing it as a commonsense program that will benefit our climate, health, and economy.
• What are RGGI’s implications for jobs?
RGGI would create 27,000 PA jobs in renewable energy and supporting industries and add $12 billion to the state’s economy, not only from building the infrastructure of the future but also from spending carbon auction fees for purposes like home weatherization.
The program can also help pay for retraining workers in the coal industry, which has been in decline for many years. Making and funding a plan to protect workers and train them for new jobs will help many communities that today are disadvantaged — unlike the sudden 2019 closing of the Philadelphia oil refinery, which left over a thousand workers in the lurch.
• Does RGGI have any implications for environmental and social justice?
Yes: RGGI would secure cleaner air for people living near power plants. Regulations should also ensure that new polluters don’t take the place of the old ones and that plants in environmental justice communities aren’t allowed to pollute more to offset reductions elsewhere. PA’s RGGI plan should stipulate reinvesting in lower income communities and energy assistance to those in need.
• How would RGGI affect household and business costs?
Coal and oil pollution obliges us all to pay hidden costs such as added health costs, climate costs, and locally lower real estate values. RGGI will reduce those costs and, as renewable energy is phased in more prominently, electricity prices should be reduced. In fact, electricity prices have actually fallen by 5.7% in RGGI states – outperforming price levels in non-RGGI states. Solar and wind energy are already competitive, even with the subsidies and indirect costs still given to other power sources, and as they expand, electricity costs will drop even further.
• Is renewable energy important in the future PA economy?
Yes, renewable energy is essential to Pennsylvania’s future! PA needs to not fall behind, but rather invest in and be a leader in the renewable energy future we all need and deserve.
• What can people in PA do now?
By January 14, sign the petition in support of RGGI at bit.ly/RGGIforPA. You can also urge your community leaders and elected officials to support RGGI, write letters to the editor, and influence others on social media.
The more voices we can raise in support of climate action, the more likely it is that we can see this program to the finish line.
Forthcoming analysis finds similar investment in clean energy would create substantially more employment than Shell cracker plant
Yesterday, the State Senate passed an amendment to an unrelated bill that will grant massive tax breaks to petrochemical corporations in Pennsylvania, a move that recalls legislation (HB 1100) that was vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this year.
While these corporate handouts are promoted as a powerful tool to create desperately needed jobs, forthcoming research from the national organization Food & Water Watch reveals that the subsidies awarded to energy giant Shell to build a plant in Beaver County created far fewer jobs than supporters predicted, and that a similar level investment in renewable energy projects would create far more employment opportunities.
The Food & Water Watch research determined that while the state granted Shell an astonishing $1.6 billion in tax incentives for a project that will create a total of 600 permanent jobs (a cost of $2.75 million for every long-term job), a similar level of investment in wind and solar would create 16,500 jobs, which would almost match the state’s total employment in the oil and gas industries.
In response to the Senate vote, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement:
“In the midst of a deadly global pandemic, Pennsylvania lawmakers are creating a secret scheme to hand hundreds of millions of dollars to petrochemical corporations in order to rescue the ailing fracking industry and create more plastic junk. Our research shows that investing in wind and solar provides far more bang for the buck. Instead of giving money to corporate polluters like Shell, lawmakers should put a halt to these absurd petrochemical giveaways, and build a clean, renewable energy industry that will create far more safe and stable jobs.”
Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) protested simultaneously at three PECO locations in Chester County: Phoenixville, Coatesville and Warminster early on Wednesday December 11. Protesters’ demands were simple “PECO, get a plan to combat climate change.”
About a hundred people divided over the three locations delivered the message by songs, banners, signs, and speeches.
PECO has been seriously lacking in its response to climate change by not purchasing nearly enough of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind. PECO is not thinking long term and climate change is already causing deadly droughts, floods, and other extreme weather. If we do not take immediate action, the results could be catastrophic.
At the same time, income inequality is reaching historic heights. Working class communities and communities of color are facing staggering levels of unemployment as businesses and the wealthy profit. We believe that there are better ways of doing business that reduce climate change and produce good jobs.
PECO must become part of the solution by increasing the purchases of locally produced sustainable energy.
We demand that PECO derive 20% of the total energy production from sustainable sources produced locally while prioritizing community-owned solar power, ownership by low-income communities in PECO’s service area, and installation by local workers paid livable wages, especially from high unemployment areas in its service area.
So far the response of PECO has been words but no action and we demand immediate action to get to the 20% sustainable power by 2025. Europe just signed their Green New Deal so it’s not like the rest of the world is not moving forward. It’s companies like PECO that need to get with the times and if it takes more protests, then we will up our protests to a level that PECO can not turn away from.
Since 2015 our campaign has grown with actions like the PECO Runaround where 100 runners, walkers, and wheelers circled company headquarters at the “PECO Runaround” (because PECO is giving Philadelphia the runaround on solar). The event raised $10,000 to Power Local Green Jobs.
We will not sit still until PECO comes up with a plan and executes that plan with tangible results.
See also Donna Rovins, “Group continues to push PECO on solar power, green jobs,” Daily Local News, 12/15/19
Renewables on the Rise: A decade of progress toward a clean energy future
The 2019 edition of a report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. Written by Rob Sargent, Environment America Research & Policy Center; and Jonathan Sundby and Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group.
Read the summary and download the report at PennEnvioronment.The news from Pennsylvania, considering the state’s long continuing history of fossil fuel extraction and dependency, is better than one might expect. According to an emailed summary from PennEnvironment:
• Pennsylvania was ranked 22nd out of every state in the U.S. for growth in solar energy generation and 16th for growth in wind energy generation.
• 18,248 electric vehicles were sold in Pennsylvania over the past 10 years.
• Last year, Pennsylvania generated 4,125 GWh of clean wind and solar power.
Letter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct 22, 2019. Richard Whiteford and World Information Transfer are affiliated with CCEA.
Last November, both the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports said humanity has 12 years to cut carbon emission in half and to zero by 2045 or it is highly possible that humans may not survive the ravishes of climate change. These reports were compiled by over 2,000 peer reviewed climatologists from over 160 nations.
Despite this, Pennsylvania’s Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee scheduled a hearing to pass legislation to protect coal-fired power plants, the most polluting and CO2 emitting power source in existence, from a proposed carbon tax.
Heading this effort is Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, supported by Reps. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, and Pam Snyder D-Green. Rep. Daryl Metcalf, R-Butler, is holding a House hearing on the same issue Oct. 28.
Their efforts, if successful, will increase CO2 emissions. Are they blind to the health care cost from burning coal, the cost of extreme storm damage from floods caused by a heating atmosphere (2017 was the worst on record costing Pennsylvania $163.5 million) or the economic benefits of the 90,772 clean energy jobs created in Pennsylvania in 2019?
Mr. Yaw pays lip service to clean energy but is working very hard to kill it behind the scenes. They whip out the same old saw that cutting fossil fuels will kill jobs, hurt the economy and disrupt our energy supply. Well, not if they strongly supported clean energy and gave it more incentives than given to the fossil industry.
What kind of moral ethics, or lack thereof, allow them to sacrifice the futures of our children to an uninhabitable planet to keep the dirty fossil industry alive? How old will your children be in 2045?
RICHARD WHITEFORD, Downingtown, Pa.
The writer is a climate change consultant and educator and a board member of the World Information Transfer.
Naturally the fossil fuel industry wants to find a cheap way to get rid of its drilling water — the chemically contaminated and radioactive waste water that emerges from underground during the process or drilling for gas and oil.
And the industry has come up with spreading their waste product on dirt roads. What could possibly go wrong? Read one woman’s tale of what could and did go wrong at PennEnvironment.
The PA DEP was forced to put a moratorium on the procedure but now a bill is before the General Assembly to legalize it, along with other handouts to industry at the expense of public health and taxpayers.
To sign on to a letter protesting the bill, see here.
Banking on Climate Change 2019 is the tenth annual fossil fuel report card and the first ever analysis of funding from the world’s major private banks for the fossil fuel sector as a whole.
Expanded in scope, the report adds up lending and underwriting to 1,800 companies across the coal, oil and gas sectors globally over the past three years. The report also tracks fossil fuel expansion by aggregating data on which banks are financing the 100 companies most aggressively expanding fossil fuels.
Banking on Climate Change 2019 reveals that the four biggest global bankers of fossil fuels are all U.S. banks – JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America. Barclays of England, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) of Japan and RBC of Canada are also massive funders in this sector. Notably, JPMorgan Chase is by far the worst banker of fossil fuels and fossil fuel expansion – and therefore the world’s worst banker of climate change. Since the Paris Agreement, JPMorgan Chase has provided $196 billion in finance for fossil fuels, 10% of all fossil fuel finance from the 33 major global banks.
JPMorgan’s volume of finance for fossil fuels 2016-2018 is a shocking 29% higher than the second placed bank, Wells Fargo. The bank stands out even more from its peers in its volume of financing for the top companies expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure: since the Paris climate agreement, JPMorgan Chase’s $67 billion in finance for the expanders is fully 68% higher than that of Citi, in distant second place.
With Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in 11th and 12th places respectively in the fossil fuel financing league table, all of the big six U.S. banking giants are in the top dirty dozen bankers of climate change. Together, U.S. banks account for 37% of all global fossil fuel financing. Collectively, the U.S. banks are the biggest source of funding for fossil fuel expansion since the Paris Agreement was adopted…