Pennsylvania Governor vetoes bill against Clean Power Plan, citing GOP ‘intrusion’

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed a bill that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to hold sway over the state’s Clean Power Plan compliance strategy.

H.B. 1327, which was passed by lawmakers with the state budget earlier this month, included language granting either chamber of the General Assembly the ability to disapprove of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to meet federally required emissions cuts in the power sector.

The climate language is one reason the bill was vetoed, the governor stated in a letter sent to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Friday. Other concerns included its impacts on education funding and oil and gas regulations.

“This procedure not only permits an improper one-house veto, but also calls for an unwarranted intrusion upon executive authority, and I will not assent to these legislative decisions,” Wolf wrote of the bill’s Clean Power Plan requirements.

Wolf was locked in a fight with lawmakers over the state budget for close to nine months, an impasse that affected a wide range of government programs in the state. The governor allowed the budget to become law last week.

Republican leaders in the state Senate condemned Wolf’s veto, saying the measure is a needed “instruction manual” for how state funds are spent.

“After nine months of failing to sign a complete budget — we are once again seeing the Governor play games with Pennsylvanian’s hard-earned tax dollars,” state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R) said in a statement.

Should U.S. EPA’s climate rule survive legal challenges, Pennsylvania is one of the few states where the law requires lawmakers to review the state’s Clean Power Plan compliance plan before it is submitted to EPA (ClimateWire, Dec. 9, 2014).

But that law, Act 175, was signed by the state’s former Republican governor before the Clean Power Plan was finalized and includes specific dates that no longer apply to the federal regulation. The Clean Power Plan language in the bill vetoed by Wolf was seen as an update to Act 175 (ClimateWire, Dec. 14, 2015). It was supported by the coal lobby and condemned by environmentalists.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay the Clean Power Plan, DEP Secretary John Quigley was preparing to draft Pennsylvania’s full Clean Power Plan compliance strategy to submit to EPA this September, even though the majority of states were expected to wait until 2018. Quigley insisted that he would be able to do so while still adhering to Act 175’s requirements (ClimateWire, Dec. 4, 2015).

Following the stay, Quigley announced that Pennsylvania would continue drafting a Clean Power Plan compliance strategy. At a recent budget hearing before the Pennsylvania Legislature, Quigley told lawmakers the state is continuing its planning and outreach efforts in order to prepare for the climate regulation in case it survives legal challenges. But Quigley added that the state is no longer pushing to craft a final compliance plan until the regulation is deemed legal.

“It is highly unlikely that we would be in a position to submit a final plan while the stay is still pending,” Quigley said.

This story also appears in EnergyWire.