Pennsylvania State Capitol Update
Last week lawmakers passed a $45.2 billion spending budget which was signed by Governor Wolf on July 8. The state legislature will now break for a summer recess before reconvening again in September.
Here is a recap of recent legislative and regulatory updates that impact your business.
Energy Choice Bill Sent To Governor’s Desk With Predicted Veto
By a vote of 117-83, the State House has sent Senate Bill 275 (Yaw) to the Governor’s desk. The Energy Choice bill would prohibit local and county governments from adopting ordinances that would prohibit or regulate fuel use within their jurisdictions.
The bill was the subject of an effort by proponents of the legislation to effectuate an agreement with the Governor as part of the state budget process.
However, a deal was not accomplished. It is unclear what action will be taken by the Governor on the bill, but many observers are predicting a veto. The bill includes natural gas, heating oil, and propane as fuels that would be subject to its provisions .
The legislation was inspired by laws passed in other states that addressed the actions of local governments that had enacted local climate change ordinances.
This legislation is perhaps even more important to PPA member companies in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision which nullified one action of EPA in terms of federal climate change programs established by regulation.
This decision will likely result in more attempts on the local level to enact fossil fuel bans or regulation.
PPA has been strongly in support of SB 275 and the companion bill HB 1947.
The PPA will continue to work with key legislators as the issue continues to develop.
EV Infrastructure Expansion Legislation Excluded From State Budget Code Bill
In a significant victory for PPA and its member companies, the fight against an effort by PECO to enact legislation to allow electric utilities to charge all their ratepayers for the cost of building out the electric vehicle charging network has stalled at least for time being.
PECO had worked to get the measure included in a state budget related bill. The PPA and other partners engaged in a campaign to educate legislators that this would be a tax increase and thus not the appropriate policy to implement in this time of skyrocketing inflation.
The PPA also opposed the bill because of its concern that the proposal would potentially allow utilities to compete with the private sector in developing their own retail electric vehicle charging facilities.
In addition to being opposed to the specifics of this proposal, PPA is also concerned with any legislation that would serve to establish a precedent for utilities to charge ratepayers for extending service to new customers.
For example, the Association has continued to fight House Bill 1285 (Williams) currently in the House Consumers Affairs Committee which would allow utilities to recover costs of the buildout of EV charging networks and also toward extension of natural gas lines.
Stopping the PECO EV bill was an important accomplishment but this battle will continue into the fall legislative session.
Commonwealth Court Decision Pauses RGGI Implementation
On Friday July 8, 2022, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Michael Wojcik issued an injunction that effectively blocks DEP from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
RGGI has been the centerpiece of Governor Wolf’s climate change policy. The plan would institute a cap-and-trade auction requirement on fuels used for the generation of electricity at power plants. This regulation is primarily aimed at eliminating coal fired facilities.
The adoption of the RGGI regulation had been a highly contentious process over the last few years, with the Republican controlled legislature voting to block the proposed regulation but not with enough votes to override the veto by the Governor.
Upon final action in the regulatory process earlier this year, the coalition of unions and businesses opposing the rule-as well as the Republican legislative leadership-filed suit to block the implementation of the regulation.
The core argument of the suit was that RGGI imposed a new tax on the production of electricity and that this new tax was never approved by the legislature as required by the state constitution.
The Judge’s ruling stops DEP from joining the multistate RGGI program at least until the case itself is decided. This ruling is very significant in regard to future climate change policy initiatives in Pennsylvania.
It will be appealed by the Wolf Administration.
Governor Wolf Signs HB 1780 Into Law
House Bill 1780 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act (Act 32 of 1989) to extend the sunset dates for both the Underground Storage Tank Environmental Cleanup Program and the Underground Storage Tank Pollution Prevention Program. This change extends the sunset dates more than five years from June 30, 2022, to December 31, 2027.
PPA supported the reauthorization of these programs.