State and Federal Courts Check Expansive Executive Actions on Energy, Bridge Tolling

Last week saw a state appeal courts in Harrisburg and the U.S. Supreme Court issue rulings finding the executive branch exceeded their authority on several important policy fronts, including a PennDOT proposal to toll nine bridges on interstate highways and an Obama administration regulation to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Industry, ratepayers and advocates were all waiting for another court decision on the proposal for Pennsylvania  to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for power plants. However, the judge presiding over the case did not make a decision last week on issuing an injunction, and the regulation took effect July 1.

On June 30, Commonwealth Court Judge Eileen Ceisler voided PennDOT’s proposed public-private partnership to toll interstate bridges across the state, finding that PennDOT did not follow the proper procedures under the statute authorizing P3 projects. The proposal, opposed by local chambers of commerce across the state, would have tolled drivers and motorists traveling across bridges on I-78 in Berks County, I-79 in Washington County, I-80 in northwest PA, I-81 in Susquehanna County, I-83 in Dauphin and Cumberland County and 1-95 in Philadelphia.

The same day, the US Supreme Court issued its next-to-last decision in the term, finding an Obama administration regulation to limit greenhouse gas emissions through a trading program exceeded the authority Congress granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The rule never went into effect after being stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016, and the Trump administration proposed to replace it with a more narrow rule. Nonetheless, as the Biden administration noted last year, “ongoing changes in electricity generation mean that the emission reduction goals that the [Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan] for 2030 have already been achieved,” affirmation of the PA Chamber’s position that markets and innovation can provide more efficient outcomes than command-and-control regulatory approaches. The PA Chamber was the lead organization among 166 state and national business groups in an amicus brief supporting the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan when litigation on the regulation commenced in 2016, and the PA Chamber’s Kevin Sunday testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015 regarding the potential impact of the proposal to the state’s energy industry, manufacturers and ratepayers.


Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.