PA Chamber: Commonwealth Court Decision Overturning RGGI a Win for Consumers and An Opportunity for Long-Term Solutions

HARRISBURG  Luke Bernstein, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, issued the following statement in response to today’s Commonwealth Court decision that found former Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to enter Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to be unconstitutional:

“We agree with the Commonwealth Court’s conclusion that joining RGGI would result in a tax on energy producers and that only the legislature has the power to tax. We emphasized this point in an amicus brief our organization submitted with several other groups, and we appreciate the Court’s recognition of our concerns.

“We also shared other concerns of business, labor, consumers, and state lawmakers that Pennsylvania’s entrance into RGGI would have threatened to significantly increase energy prices at a time when businesses and families are already facing high prices and the grid operator is raising red flags about the pace of power plant retirements. Policymakers should embrace abundant domestic energy production, facilitate building new infrastructure, support competitive markets, and set long-term policies that encourage innovation and prioritize reliability. This comprehensive approach is congruent with emissions reductions goals, and Pennsylvania – which is second nationally in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions since 2005 – should continue these efforts.

“However, as we noted at the onset and throughout the process, the regulation did not sufficiently protect the state’s electricity and manufacturing sectors, nor did it guard against the potential for significant run-up in electricity or commodity prices. Businesses, whether they generate or consume power, need both affordable energy and long-term certainty.

“We encourage the Governor to let the court’s decision stand and continue working with stakeholders and the General Assembly on policy that leverages our state’s strengths for the benefit of our economy, national security, and the environment.”

PA Chamber Testifies Before U.S. Senate Panel on Environmental Regulations

HARRISBURG – Today, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday testified before the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight. The hearing, entitled “The Impacts of Plastics Production and Disposal on Environmental Justice Communities,” explored the balance between commerce and conservation.

 

In his testimony, Sunday highlighted the importance of enacting public policy that expands opportunities for all citizens and advances sustainability while supporting economic growth. He emphasized the regressive nature of high energy prices on vulnerable communities and the paramount need for domestic energy development as a means to combat energy poverty.

Sunday outlined Pennsylvania’s significant contributions as a leading producer of energy, electricity, gas, construction materials, food, medicine, and life-sustaining products. He also noted the ongoing efforts in the Commonwealth to establish a circular economy that minimizes water and plastics waste.

“The abundant natural resources of our state have led this country through every major energy transition that has occurred in the past 165 years,” Sunday said.

Sunday stressed the importance of a robust and reliable supply of energy and life-sustaining products, as underscored by the pandemic and recent supply chain shocks. He urged policymakers to consider the economic and environmental benefits of Pennsylvania’s energy and plastics industries, which support over $24 billion in annual economic output and 55,000 jobs, and cautioned against pursuing measures that would constrain this vital sector.

“Limiting domestic output of this industry will produce negative economic and environmental costs and impacts, from raising the cost of goods and services for working families and sending more jobs overseas, to increasing global emissions and an increase in the amount of waste sent to landfills,” Sunday said.

Sunday emphasized the desire for job creation in environmental justice communities and the negative public health consequences of high unemployment. “One of the key criteria in defining an environmental justice community is the percentage of households or individuals in poverty,” Sunday said. “These communities want jobs.”

Sunday also underscored the importance of the state’s plastics and petrochemical industries in manufacturing goods including medical devices, products, vaccines, ammonia, and fertilizer. He highlighted progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the significant energy savings achieved through manufacturing goods from recycled materials. Sunday stressed that plastics remain essential in taking advantage of renewable technologies and reducing emissions.

“Plastics play a key role in renewable technologies and batteries – from light-weighting automobiles to composite components of wind turbines and solar panels, so it is all the more important that we develop strategies for their responsible use and recycling,” Sunday said.

Pennsylvania’s approach to environmental justice, according to Sunday, ensures public participation from impacted communities and produces durable permitting decisions. He urged policymakers to define clear standards that promote fairness and allow communities to thrive.

“As state and federal regulators and legislators define policy goals with respect to environmental justice, the implementation of these goals must come through clearly articulated, objective regulatory standards, established by statute and through a rulemaking process, that are applied fairly and without excessive conditioning of permits and processes.”

The PA Chamber of Business and Industry strongly supports legislative efforts to drive meaningful permitting reform and increase investment in the industry. Sunday acknowledged the bipartisan leadership of Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and their commitment to enacting permitting reforms.

Sunday maintained that Pennsylvania’s chemicals, manufacturing, and recycling sectors play a crucial role in fostering inclusive and sustainable growth. He cited examples of ongoing projects, such as the International Recycling Group’s zero landfill plastics recycling facility in Erie, Monroe Energy’s refinery in Delaware County, and Shell’s polymers manufacturing facility in southwestern Pennsylvania. These projects not only support economic development but also empower local communities through responsible environmental practices.

“We encourage a balanced discussion that recognizes the important economic benefit of our state’s energy, manufacturing, and chemical sectors as well as any environmental impacts that need to be addressed,” Sunday said.

In closing, Sunday emphasized that strength in these economic sectors is necessary for growth, food security, and energy independence. He highlighted the importance of Pennsylvanian and American-made products in meeting the challenges of climate change and supporting a growing global economy.

PA Chamber Leads Coalition Urging EPA to Withdraw Controversial Water Rule

HARRISBURG – A coalition of 24 state chambers, led by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, has submitted a comment letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the withdrawal of a controversial water quality rule which the agency recently proposed.

In its letter, addressed to EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox, the multi-state coalition raises significant concerns about the proposed rule, specifically questioning the data and methodology used in the agency’s decision to classify four additional chemical compounds as contaminants under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

While the coalition expressed support for the establishment of a comprehensive national drinking water standard for certain chemicals, its comment letter highlights several problems with the EPA’s current proposal – asserting that the costs associated with the proposed rule are substantial and likely underestimated.

The coalition cites the potential costs of implementing the proposed maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for two compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), estimating an annualized cost of approximately $1.8 billion. This figure represents more than double the EPA’s own estimated costs provided in the agency’s economic analysis.

Consequently, the coalition warned that the implementation of this proposed rule could lead to sharp increases in household water costs (up to $1,000 per month) in communities nationwide.

The coalition letter outlines the following key concerns:

  • Insufficient data on occurrence levels at the proposed maximum contaminant level.
  • The introduction of a novel hazard index approach for certain chemicals, raising technical, scientific, and legal questions.
  • Limited understanding of the risks associated with the proposed MCL.
  • The necessity of considering costs and benefits as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Moreover, the coalition indicates that the proposed rule fails to consider the costs of Superfund cleanups, given the pending CERCLA hazardous substance designation for PFOA and PFOS.

As a result, the letter requests the EPA withdraw its proposal and await the outcomes of the ongoing Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) 5 process before proceeding with a regulatory determination. In its conclusion, the coalition letter stresses that these outsized costs are avoidable and urges the EPA to adopt a more reasonable and defensible approach.

The letter is available here and was signed by the following state chambers:

  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Greater North Dakota Chamber
  • Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry
  • Illinois Chamber of Commerce
  • Indiana Chamber of Commerce
  • Iowa Association of Business and Industry
  • Kansas Chamber of Commerce
  • Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Maine State Chamber of Commerce
  • Maryland Chamber of Commerce
  • Michigan Chamber of Commerce
  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
  • Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association
  • New Mexico Chamber of Commerce
  • North Carolina Chamber
  • Ohio Chamber of Commerce
  • Oregon Business & Industry
  • Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
  • South Carolina Chamber of Commerce
  • Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Virginia Chamber of Commerce
  • Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce