On July 8, 2022, the Commonwealth Court issued a preliminary injunction, blocking the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s unilateral and immediate entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) until the merits of the case have been adjudicated.
The regulation was published, despite bipartisan legislative opposition, on April 23, 2022, with a targeted enforcement date of July 1, 2022. However, legal challenges filed by the General Assembly, power producers, and the trade unions that staff those operations has proven initially successful as the injunction will temporarily halt the enforcement of the regulation.
PMA issued an amicus “friend of the court” brief on this issue in partnership with the Industrial Energy Consumers of Pennsylvania (IECPA), the Pennsylvania Energy Consumer Alliance (PECA), the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and the National Federation of Independent Business.
“We are grateful to the court for preventing any further damage from Governor Wolf’s electricity tax,” said David N. Taylor. President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association. “In the fulness of time, we believe the court will agree that the RGGI scheme is an unconstitutional tax that violates the exclusive authority of the General Assembly.”
The decision is a major victory for Pennsylvania’s energy producers and consumers as consumers struggle to cope with energy price inflation. Moreover, it has been the position of PMA since the regulation was first proposed by the Wolf Administration in 2019 that this rulemaking is unconstitutional and would not survive a legal challenge. The issued preliminary injunction allows those impacted power plants the ability to competitively operate until a final decision by the courts can be reached.
This welcome news comes hours after the United States Supreme Court voted, 6-3, that the United States Department of Environmental Protection does not have the authority to regulate carbon emissions at the federal level under Obama-era “Clean Power Plan” rules. The basis of the ruling is that only congress, not the EPA or any other bureaucratic agency, has the authority to institute cap-and-trade programs; a theme that will be argued in Pennsylvania’s courts in the months to come on the issue of RGGI.