Now Available: Video of September’s PA IPL Philadelphia Chapter Program!

Cleaning Up Pennsylvania’s Electric Generation – Pushing RGGI Across the Finish Line!

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI – pronounced “Reggy”) is Governor Wolf’s effort to begin cleaning up the Commonwealth’s electricity generation. RGGI is a “cap and trade” mechanism for putting a price on CO2 emissions from power plants. States in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions that have been part of RGGI for years have reduced their CO2 emissions significantly and have generated major revenue that has been invested in clean energy and other programs to address climate justice. In Pennsylvania RGGI has cleared several major hurdles toward implementation but still faces significant opposition.

At our September PA IPL Philadelphia Chapter program we had several participants who have been following RGGI since its introduction in Pennsylvania and are very familiar with its provisions and what remains to be done to ensure RGGI’s success:

  • Bill CozzensPA IPL Board member and climate activist with several organizations will be introducing the panelists, providing some background information on RGGI, and moderating the audience discussion and Q&A period
  • Nora Elmarzouky, a climate justice organizer working for POWER Interfaith. Nora is the staff person supporting POWER’s RGGI Advocacy team and its Public Utility Commission Working Group.
  • Liz Robinson, former Executive Director of the Energy Coordinating Agency Philadelphia, is currently serving as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association. Liz is an active member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Eco-Justice Collaborative: Quakers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware promoting clean energy and economic, racial, and social justice. Liz has been actively supporting RGGI since its introduction.

RGGI is a complex regulation with lots of components. During our meeting Liz and Nora unpacked some of the complexity and helped us understand the benefits and current status of RGGI in Pennsylvania and what we can do to help push RGGI across the finish line.

Topics covered include:

  • How RGGI works and what impact it is likely to have on electric generation and costs
  • Benefits: reduction of CO2
  • Benefits: Funds available for clean energy and investments in environmental justice communities. How should funds be allocated?
  • Current status of approval
  • Opposition to RGGI
  • Steps we can take to move RGGI forward

RGGI Passes in PA with 3 to 2 Vote!

Today the PA Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted to approve PA participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in a 3 to 2 vote. Now, PA can join neighboring states in cutting CO2, creating jobs, and helping communities in need of support.

The passage of the RGGI is significant because in Pennsylvania, a substantial energy-producing state, over 70% of voters in recent polling called for solutions to cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

The RGGI is an established multi-state cap-and-invest program that seeks to slash carbon emissions from the power sector while generating proceeds that can be invested in cleaner energy generation including solar, wind, and nuclear. The RGGI program proceeds have also buttressed energy efficiency efforts in participating states and according to ACEEE, every dollar invested in efficiency in low-income households through the Weatherization Assistance Program results in $2.53 in energy and non-energy benefits for a community. These are real benefits for Pennsylvanians in frontline communities that have long borne an inordinate pollution burden.

It is critical that we take action on climate change now and a program like RGGI is positioned to provide immediate benefits to both our environment and the economy. PA citizens are rightly concerned about what the future will look like for their children and families if we don’t meaningfully address planetary warming right now. Having Pennsylvania link to RGGI in early 2022 is very much in the public interest, which is why we are thrilled to announce an affirmative vote for this rulemaking from the commissioners today.

Public Comments to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission on the Department of Environmental Protection’s C02 Budget Trading Program/Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Rulemaking

September 1, 2021

Commissioners:

Thank you for allowing me to speak today. My name is David Heayn-Menendez and I am the executive director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, a community of congregations, faith-based organizations and individuals of faith responding to climate change as an ethical and moral issue. We are the Pennsylvania affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light, a national organization, and as our mission suggests, we are concerned about the existential crisis we face as a result of climate change. The greenhouse gas pollution we are generating is unsustainable for our people and our planet and we are not outliers in this belief: In Pennsylvania alone, a substantial energy-producing state, over 70% of voters in recent polling called for solutions to cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

And here’s where the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative comes in. As you know, RGGI is an established multi-state cap-and-invest program that seeks to slash carbon emissions from the power sector while generating proceeds that can be invested in cleaner energy generation including solar, wind and nuclear. The RGGI program proceeds have also buttressed energy efficiency efforts in participating states and according to ACEEE, every dollar invested in efficiency in low-income households through the Weatherization Assistance Program results in $2.53 in energy and non-energy benefits for a community. These are real benefits for Pennsylvanians in frontline communities that have long borne an inordinate pollution burden.

It is critical that we take action on climate change now and a program like RGGI is positioned to provide immediate benefits to both our environment and the economy. I was one of hundreds of speakers who lent their voice last summer during public hearings on RGGI, hearings which affirmed the overwhelming support among Pennsylvanians for the commonwealth’s participation in the program. Our citizens are rightly concerned about what the future will look like for their children and families if we don’t meaningfully address planetary warming right now. Having Pennsylvania link to RGGI in early 2022 is very much in the public interest, which is why we urge an affirmative vote for this rulemaking from the commissioners today. I appreciate your time and consideration.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill: What it Does and Does Not Include

On August 10, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, a $3.5 Trillion budget deal. Just days later, they approved a budget resolution.

Of IPL’s priorities, the bipartisan bill includes:

  • Funding to clean up Superfund sites and other legacy pollution, including abandoned mine lands ($21 billion, with $11 billion for abandoned mine lands)
  • Investments to improve and expand ‌Amtrak‌ ‌service‌ ‌($66 billion)
  • Some funding for ‌clean‌ ‌drinking‌ ‌water ($63 billion, only $15 billion for lead pipe removal)
  • Investments in ‌the‌ ‌development‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌21st‌ ‌century‌ ‌electrical‌ ‌grid‌ ($65 billion)
  • Building electric‌ ‌vehicle‌ ‌charging‌ ‌stations‌ ($7.5 billion)

Unfortunately, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill failed to address many other climate issues that will help meet the climate goals our nation needs. Clean energy, replacing lead pipes, wind and solar energy, clean transportation, and investing in resources for disadvantaged communities was not addressed. As we look to the future, we need President Biden and Congress to go bold — so we can spur growth.

  • Clean energy: The bipartisan deal includes no meaningful support for wind and solar power. We need the reconciliation package to include an extension and expansion of clean energy tax credits for wind, solar, and electric vehicles, as well as a national Clean Energy Standard that supports truly clean, renewable energy.
  • Replacing lead pipes: This deal cuts the total funding for clean water to half of what the President had initially proposed, and only $15 billion for removing lead pipes. This is significantly less than $60 billion the water industry estimates is needed to ensure all communities have lead-free drinking water.
  • Clean transportation: The bipartisan deal includes insufficient funding for public transit, rail, electric school buses, and electric vehicle charging.
  • Investing with justice: As President Biden promised on the campaign trail, we need to see at least 40% of funds spent in the communities hurt the most by our current polluting economy.

Whether Congress immediately moves a budget reconciliation package that matches the scale of the climate and environmental justice crises we face depends on the actions we take right now. We still need a Climate Bill and the actions we take as faith communities matter now more than ever. We need the budget reconciliation bill to be a Climate Bill that meets this moment, heeds the science, and delivers on climate, justice, and jobs.

If you want to let your Senators and Representative know climate matters are important to you, REGISTER HERE to join PA IPL and Jewish Earth Alliance to learn how to write effective letters to elected officials on August 25, 2021 at 7:00pm. As part of this session, you will write your own letter on a climate issue important to you. You can be part of making a Climate Bill a reality.

PA IPL – Climate Justice Round Table Discussion

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With the end of the PA legislative session we wanted to take this time to give an opportunity for you to reflect and converse about all that has happened this year and what is to come.

Please virtually join us on Tuesday, December 29th at 7:00 PM, along with PA IPL Executive Director, David Heayn-Menendez, who will lead an online Climate Justice Roundtable Conversation open to all.

We have invited state and national partners to come discuss what the next year holds in store and how we will continue to advance the causes of climate progress and justice. We invite you to come participate in a lively and open discussion. You can register for the event here.

IPL National – What’s Next for Climate Progress

Now that election day has passed, let us look to the future! What are the next steps for climate progress and climate justice?

Join IPL National on November 19th at 3:00 PM EST for an important discussion-What’s Next for Climate Progresson whelectionat this historic election will mean for climate action with IPL President Rev. Susan Hendershot and IPL Federal Policy Associate Jonathan Lacock-Nisly.