EDITORIAL: Pollution up chimney, cash down drain

Aug. 18—The state government's stalled entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative continues to cost the state money as power generators continue to pump pollution into the air, cost-free.

Almost all Northeast states participate in the RGGI, a long overdue program to place a price on carbon emissions so that power generators will produce less carbon pollution. The program is a multistate marketplace in which generators must buy a credit for each ton of pollution that they produce. The most recent price, in June, was $12.73 per ton. Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection set its initial allowance at 78 million tons.

Pennsylvania was supposed to join the RGGI in April 2022, but it has been held up by litigation since then. The state's entry is considered a milestone because Pennsylvania is, by far, the biggest energy-producing and energy-exporting state in the compact.

Based on the number of credit auctions that the state has missed due to the delay, and the prices at each auction, the government has missed out on about $1 billion in revenue. Pennsylvania's program calls for the revenue to go to clean-energy programs, so it would produce a gradual change from allowing carbon pollution with impunity to fairly pricing it to drive clean-energy development.

Former Gov. Tom Wolf, whose administration developed the program, also wanted to use some of the money to train workers in the coal and fossil-fuel power industries for clean-energy jobs.

RGGI opponents contend that it would result in substantially higher electricity prices to pay for the pollution credits. But a study in May by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania found that prices would fluctuate in a narrow range between a modest decrease and a modest increase.

The transition to clean power is well under way. Pennsylvania should accelerate it and profit from it by implementing the RGGI program.