ERE Chairman Metcalfe Calls on DEP Secretary to Cancel Blatantly Partisan RGGI Virtual Voting Meeting
9/14/2020
CRANBERRY – House Environmental Resources and Energy (ERE) Committee Majority Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) sent the following letter to PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell urging the cancellation of tomorrow’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB) voting meeting to consider the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“Dear Secretary McDonnell:

“I write you today to state my serious concerns with the Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to move forward in bringing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) regulation before the Environmental Quality Board tomorrow. Considering the impact that the governor’s COVID-19 related orders have had on our economy and the fact that you still do not believe it to be safe to be holding this meeting in person, I request that you remove the regulation from the agenda and cancel the EQB meeting.

“It should not come as a surprise to you that I do not believe that you should be holding EQB meetings on any regulation virtually. I have contacted your department twice before to raise this point in a letter sent to you on April 14 of this year and an email sent to the EQB members on May 19. I have yet to receive an answer from you as to why you believe it is acceptable to be holding these meetings virtually, which will have severe consequences for Pennsylvania’s energy economy, while your offices are still shuttered.

“It is my understanding that the majority of DEP staff, if not all of them, are still not physically coming in to work. My staff recently visited the Rachel Carson Building and found that the doors were locked, preventing them from entering. They were informed by a security guard that there really was not much point in entering anyway as there were few, if any, employees present for them to speak with.

“It is simply not possible to have the same level of debate and engagement between EQB members, DEP staff, and the public, when a meeting is held virtually as opposed to in person. The seriousness of the RGGI regulation which we would be considering demands our full attention, and must be considered, if it is considered at all, at an in-person meeting. To do otherwise smacks of a lack of transparency and supports the conclusion that you are committed to sneaking this regulation through as quickly as possible while the public’s attention is diverted on the COVID-19 outbreak.

“If you believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is still such an extreme danger that your employees should not be coming in to work, surely now is not the time to be plowing forward with a blatantly partisan regulation such as RGGI. RGGI would not only fail to assist the crucial effort of helping Pennsylvania recover from the dire economic circumstances which we are currently facing, but it would actively harm our economic recovery by driving more business from the state and instantly stealing away family-sustaining jobs from hard working citizens.

“The industries which RGGI will hurt initially, and those that it will likely hurt in the future if Pennsylvania joins, are the very industries whose fees and fines feed your Department’s budget. This funding allows you to continue providing salaries to your employees who have the privilege of being paid to work from home, while so many in the Commonwealth are unemployed. These industries, like most at the moment, have been hit deeply by the economic devastation created by the COVID-19 outbreak. By pursuing RGGI you are harming our citizens and businesses when they can least afford it. DEP’s focus should be on aiding our economic recovery, not actively making it more difficult.

“Secretary McDonnell, if you were in the office, you may have taken more seriously the advice and expert opinions of the three advisory committees which all voted to refuse to endorse your RGGI proposal. As far as I have learned, the actions taken by the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, Citizens Advisory Council, and Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee to all unify in rejecting your proposal are unprecedented. It is extremely arrogant to proceed without taking into account any of the serious concerns that the esteemed members of these committees have raised.

“Finally, to pursue a regulation based on modeling created by a company, ICF, which has lobbied on several occasions in favor of RGGI and how RGGI proceeds should be spent is unacceptable. This is the height of corruption when the supposedly neutral company whose analysis is meant to be relied upon on is publicly lobbying in favor of what they should be analyzing in an unbiased fashion, and further lobbying regarding how these funds should be spent, revealing an additional conflict of interest. How can any of ICF’s data be trusted?

“The seriousness of the RGGI regulation demands that we have an in-person meeting to consider it. Your timing in pushing forward despite the severe economic struggles our state is currently facing is unacceptable. I request that you at least temporarily, if not permanently, remove the RGGI regulation from EQB’s agenda.”

Representative Daryl Metcalfe
12th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

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