Carbon tax plan called a disastrous gift to Ohio, West Virginia

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(The Center Square) — If Gov. Josh Shapiro thought his replacement carbon tax plan would assuage his critics, he dramatically miscalculated.

After laying out his proposal for a Pennsylvania-specific version of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Wednesday, Shapiro argued doing nothing is not an option.

Opponents of his plans, though, call the governor’s ideas a bigger threat than inaction.

One part, the Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act (PACER), would cap carbon emissions from power plants and require companies to buy carbon offsets. The second part, the Pennsylvania Reliable Energy Sustainability Standard (PRESS), would require 35% of the state’s electricity to come from clean sources, including nuclear.

The Commonwealth Foundation calls the proposed policy “a massive new tax.”

“With these disastrous new PACER and PRESS programs, Governor Shapiro is piling on even more financial pain for working Pennsylvanians at a time when they can least afford it,” Commonwealth Foundation Senior Manager of Energy Policy André Béliveau said in a press release. “Shapiro is actively breaking his campaign promises to avoid tax increases by saddling the state with strict new emissions limits that will inevitably raise consumer costs and have a chilling effect on our natural gas industry, which is leading in reducing carbon emissions.”

Though the governor called his proposal an independent approach, Béliveau argued it would turn the commonwealth into “the next California.”

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport and chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee called it “the same misguided policies of his predecessor.”

“The governor left out the real crisis we are facing in the next 10 years — the generation of baseload electricity,” Yaw said in a press release. “By 2028, increased demand and lack of reliable thermal replacement generation will promote the collapse of the already strained electric grid.”

Republican legislators have called more public attention to grid reliability in recent months. In February, a joint meeting with Ohio legislators featured experts warning that laws and bureaucracy are shutting down power plants before new replacements are ready. The threat to energy reliability, they argued, is not falling short of meeting demand, but policy choices that cause decline.

“Any statewide carbon tax or ‘AEPS revamp’ proposal sends a terrible message to potential investors considering Pennsylvania for investments in reliable, baseload generation, and instead exacerbates the potentially catastrophic crisis heading our way,” Yaw said.

Natural-gas plants take three to five years to build, the senator noted, and nuclear power takes 15-20 years.

“In order to meet the projected demand in the 2028 timeframe, we should have 10 combined cycle generation facilities under construction right now,” Yaw said. “We don’t, and we are running out of time. Unfortunately, the governor said nothing to address this issue.”

Likewise, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Associated derided the energy plan.

“Governor Shapiro’s energy tax will cause widespread destruction in every industry in Pennsylvania. A new, additional tax on energy will jeopardize our vital industries and undermine the hardworking women and men on our shop floors while massively subsidizing boutique ‘green’ energy monopolized by China,” PMA President and CEO David Taylor said.

He argued that the plan would add costs to residents while subsidizing favored tech that depends on “human rights abuses and exploitation of child labor” in foreign countries.

Taylor also took a shot at the governor’s penchant for saying he hates to lose to “friggin’ Ohio.”

“Governor Shapiro’s energy tax is completely at odds with everything else he says he wants to do on economic development,” Taylor said. “[WV Gov.] Jim Justice and [OH Gov.] Mike DeWine should send Gov. Shapiro a bouquet of roses, or maybe a fruit basket, because the Shapiro energy tax is a clear sign to investors to go to their states, not ours.”