Danielle Smith, Producer
In a significant setback for environmental efforts in Pennsylvania, a state court recently ruled that a program designed to reduce air pollution from power plants is illegal. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth court struck down a law that would have allowed the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program that aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
John Walliser, senior vice president with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said state leaders still have a constitutional obligation to address climate change and air pollution, despite the court’s ruling, and added Pennsylvania participating in RGGI would bring revenue directly back into the state.
“By not participating in Reggie, we already have and will continue to leave millions of dollars on the table to address those needs. And we’re also missing the opportunity to better leverage federal dollars that are available right now to states for clean tech investment, energy, community assistance and pollution remediation,” he explained.
Walliser said the ruling by the Commonwealth court can be appealed but it’s up to the Governor Josh Shapiro to make that decision. In the meantime, House Republican members are calling on the governor to accept the recent Commonwealth Court decision that Pennsylvania’s enrollment RGGI is unconstitutional and to appeal it.
Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, said Pennsylvania is the third largest carbon emitter in the nation, and if the states wants to meet its near-term climate goals, it’s important to cut pollution for the health and well-being of the residents.
“I think we’re all hopeful that this decision can be appealed. And as a mom, what I know is Reggie will decrease the air pollution coming from power plants and make it easier for Pennsylvania’s children to breathe clean air, and that, frankly, is worth fighting for,” she contended.
Lynch added her group advocates for immediate action because it’s important for Pennsylvania to eliminate harmful pollutants such as mercury, particulate matter and heavy metals, all byproducts of burning fossil fuels like coal at power plants. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that joining RGGI could prevent 30,000 hospital visits for respiratory illnesses such as asthma for children and adults.
This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.