Late Friday afternoon, Commonwealth Court Judge Michael Wojick issued an injunction suspending further implementation and enforcement of Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program on power plants that took effect in Pennsylvania on July 1. The injunction comes down as part of on-going legal challenges filed against the administration by the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate and by a consortium of impacted power plants and allied trade unions. Both challenges were supported in amici briefs submitted by the PA Chamber, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, the Industrial Energy Consumers of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Energy Consumers Association.
In a statement, PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein applauded the decision, noting that “Businesses and families are already facing high energy prices due to a lack of supply and infrastructure, and this is an opportunity for policymakers to embrace abundant domestic energy production, facilitate building new infrastructure, support competitive markets, and set long-term policies that encourage innovation.” The PA Chamber also noted this is an opportunity to chart a new direction on energy policy in the state. Said Bernstein, “We look forward to working with the General Assembly, this administration, and the next governor on policy that leverages our state’s strengths for the benefit of our economy, national security, and the environment.”
In his order, Judge Wojcik noted that the court “cannot, at this time, agree with [DEP] Secretary McDonnell’s argument that the auction allowance proceeds do not constitute a tax” – a key issue raised by challengers and the Chamber’s amicus. His order explains further why he believes the state Senate raises serious questions over separation of powers and presented sufficient evidence of immediate harm and a likelihood of ultimately prevailing. “We conclude that implementation and enforcement of an invalid rulemaking would cause greater harm if the Rulemaking is deemed to violate the Constitution.” A full trial on the merits in both challenges will be held this fall.