ORVI Insider #8: What the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Would Mean for Pennsylvania



ORVI Insider

December 8, 2020





A Message from Our Executive Director 




The days may be getting colder, but the energy debate is just heating up. Joe Biden has made it clear that addressing climate change will be a top priority for his administration, though advocates on both sides of the issue are eagerly awaiting any indication of just how ambitious his approach will be. State legislators in Ohio are considering whether to delay the collection and payment of subsidies for nuclear plants in the wake of the House Bill 6 bribery scandal. And, regulators in Pennsylvania began a ten-part series of virtual hearings on a proposed rulemaking that would make the Keystone State the newest member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

In this edition of our newsletter, we highlight a new report from Senior Researcher Sean O’Leary on what joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would mean for Pennsylvania: reductions in utility bills; increased jobs, commerce, and income; and fewer emissions of pollutants that not only warm the planet, but also make us more sick and less productive. Sean will also be providing comments on Pennsylvania’s proposed rulemaking during the Environmental Quality Board’s public comment session this Friday.

We also feature Advisory Council member James Van Nostrand, who serves as the Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law. Earlier this fall, Professor Van Nostrand wrote for the Natural Resources Defense Council on Pennsylvania’s legal authority to join RGGI through a rulemaking process. Next week–after nearly a year of research, economic modeling, debate, and expert feedback–Van Nostrand and his colleagues will release their new report, West Virginia’s Energy Future: Ramping up Renewable Energy to Decrease Costs, Reduce Risks, and Strengthen Economic Opportunities for West Virginia.




Advisor’s Corner: Meet Advisory Council Member James Van Nostrand



“Blending expertise in energy and utility law, economics, and climate policy, Professor Van Nostrand is an invaluable resource for the greater Ohio Valley. His research and policy analyses are more important than ever for a region facing a reckoning with its long-standing dependence on fossil fuels.” – Joanne Kilgour, ORVI Executive Director


Professor James Van Nostrand joined the faculty of the West Virginia University College of Law in July of 2011 to serve as the Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. Professor Van Nostrand came to the WVU College of Law from the Pace Law School in White Plains, NY, where he served as Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center. Prior to his transition into law school teaching, Professor Van Nostrand had a successful career as a partner in the energy practice group of two different large law firms based in the Pacific Northwest. In his 22-year career in private practice, he represented energy clients in state regulatory proceedings in eight western states, as well as proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.





ORVI Research Spotlight




What would joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative mean for Pennsylvania? Jobs, Savings, and Healthier Families. 



The opponents of Pennsylvania’s proposed membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have things exactly backwards: the terrible things they say will happen if Pennsylvania joins RGGI are exactly the things that will happen if the Commonwealth doesn’t become a member. Without RGGI:

  • Electric bills will go up for PA families

  • Local communities will lose out on jobs, commerce, and income w.

  • The health of Pennsylvanians and of the planet will be damaged.

How do we know this? Because we’ve seen the movie before. Since 2008, when RGGI’s original member states began reducing climate pollution under the program, their electric bills have increased less than the national average and much less than Pennsylvanians’. Their economies, job numbers, and incomes have grown faster than the nation’s while their emissions have declined faster. Also, modeling of proposed participation in RGGI over the next decade quantitatively demonstrates that membership will yield similar results for Pennsylvania.



ORVI In The News

Ted Boettner: Embracing Clean Energy Vital to WV’s Future (Charleston Gazette-Mail) Ted Boettner makes the case for West Virginia’s leaders to invest in a clean energy economy instead of continuing to chase the false promises of the fossil fuel industry.





What We’re Reading at ORVI

Energy and democracy issues continue to dominate headlines. Here are the stories we are reading this week:

  • New Report: Falling Behind (University of Akron) A new report by ORVI Advisor Dr. Amanda Weinstein of the University of Akron and her colleagues from Ball State University examines how Ohio continues to lose its place in the U.S. economy.

  • Ohio lawmakers move to delay nuclear subsidies in scandal-ridden House Bill 6 (Cleveland.com) A key Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would delay $150 million in annual subsidies from flowing to two Ohio nuclear plants through House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law that’s at the center of a federal corruption investigation.

  • DEP Holds Hearings on Joining Climate Program (Public News Service) Starting Tuesday, the Department of Environmental Protection will hold virtual public hearings on a draft rule to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Since 2008, the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states in RGGI have cut carbon emissions from power plants by more than 40%.

  • Pa. Doesn’t Have to Choose Between Good Jobs and a Healthy Environment (Pennsylvania Capital-Star) Joseph Otis Minott of the Clean Air Council opines on the persistent misconception that policy steps toward a sustainable environment must come at the cost of jobs.

  • Families and Advocates Criticize Pa.’s Fracking Health Studies (StateImpact Pennsylvania) Gov. Wolf announced the studies last year after pressure from families of cancer patients in Washington County. The state says it will be partnering with an academic institution to conduct the studies, but has not announced which one. But at a recent online ‘town hall’ on the topic, advocates for the families of some of the children and young adults who have been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer, say they are being cut out of the process of constructing the studies.

  • Mine-scarred Land Could Serve as Sites for Solar Energy Projects (Citizen’s Voice) Abandoned mine lands in Northeast Pennsylvania are being surveyed as potential sites for solar energy projects. The Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation is working under a $7,000 mini grant to identify sites that could host massive solar panels.

  • Utility Union Presses Biden to Ease Energy Transition’s Impact on Coal Workers (S&P Global) With the shift to cleaner power sources displacing workers in coal-reliant communities, one of the largest US trade unions for the utility sector hopes that President-elect Joe Biden will expand an Obama administration program to ease the economic effects of the energy transition.

  • Emissions Goals Show Utilities Continue to Move Slow (Energy & Policy Institute) The country’s top emitting utilities are on decarbonization pathways that are too slow to meet the climate goals set forth by President-Elect Joseph Biden. Biden has promised to achieve a zero-carbon power sector by 2035 en route to reaching an economy-wide target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Most of the country’s largest investor-owned utilities are on trajectories to phase out their use of coal and gas far too slowly to meet that 2035 target, according to an analysis of utilities’ decarbonization goals by the Energy and Policy Institute.

  • Meet Biden’s Energy and Climate Cabinet Contenders (New York Times) President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. ‘s environment and energy team — facing a narrowly divided Congress and a hostile Republican leadership — will need creativity and perseverance if Mr. Biden is to follow through on his ambitious promises to address climate change.





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