Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced a set of guiding equity principles to help inform the public on the implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and investments of the program’s proceeds. DEP has also partnered with the Delta Institute to engage with impacted communities and workers to identify ways to ensure a just and equitable transition for all Pennsylvania residents.
“Throughout the process of developing the regulation to take part in RGGI we have heard from stakeholders that there must be guidelines in place to ensure that the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians are not put at further risk,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Confronting the threat of climate change cannot come at the expense of vulnerable communities, and these principles will guide us in finalizing the RGGI regulation and associated community investments.”
The RGGI Equity Principles include:
• Protecting public health and welfare, mitigating any adverse impacts on human health, especially in environmental justice communities, and seeking to ensure environmental and structural racism are not replicated in the engagement process; and
• Working equitably and with intentional consideration to distribute environmental and economic benefits of the proceeds of allowance auctions.
“These principles will help guide the development of the final RGGI regulation, and how the investments of the revenue from the allowance auctions will be made,” said McDonnell.
DEP’s contract with the Delta Institute will result in the development of a plan to invest RGGI auction proceeds in a way that diversifies Pennsylvania’s economy and assists communities that are affected by changes in the energy sector.
“The core of the work with the Delta Institute includes engaging directly with communities so that the RGGI investment plan is not a top-down directive from afar,” said McDonnell. “We know that change is coming to the energy industry with or without RGGI and we need to be thinking of what kind of investments need to be made to keep Pennsylvania communities vibrant into the future.”
Governor Tom Wolf has proposed investments of RGGI revenues into a new Energy Communities Trust Fund to provide direct support for workers in communities that are affected by participating in RGGI and to improve and diversify local economies.
The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) accepted comments on the draft RGGI proposal for more than two months and held 10 virtual public hearings, getting feedback from more than 14,000 Pennsylvanians. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DEP hosted virtual public hearings, which allowed more than 400 Pennsylvanians to present their comments verbally.
“We have received dramatic feedback from Pennsylvanians: they want us to participate in RGGI now as a tangible step we can take to fight climate change,” said McDonnell. “We can do that and invest in our communities at the same time, and continue building a strong economy for the future.”
Now that the public comment period has closed, the next steps for the regulation will be for DEP to review the comments received and incorporate them into the final regulatory language. Near-final language will be shared with the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, Citizen’s Advisory Council, and Small Business Advisory Committee in the spring for feedback. The final regulation will be presented to the Environmental Quality Board later in the summer.
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