Pennsylvania's Environmental Quality Board on Tuesday endorsed the framework for Pennsylvania's participation in a regional cap-and-trade program intended to mitigate global warming.
The 15-4 vote puts the state one step closer to participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI.
States participating in RGGI establish a cap on allowable carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in their borders and allow trading of those allowances to meet those caps most efficiently. Proceeds from the auction of allowances are invested to further reduce emissions.
Pennsylvania's cap would begin at 78 million tons in 2022, declining to 58 million tons in 2030. Assuming compliance is maintained, Pennsylvania's net carbon emissions would decline by 31% compared with 2019.
The state attorney general's office and Independent Regulatory Review Commission must still sign off before Pennsylvania can launch its RGGI program.
Environmental advocates say RGGI will not only contribute to mitigating climate change, but will improve the state's economy, add jobs and bring about air pollution reductions that will eliminate $6.3 billion in health care costs.
Republican legislators claim the Wolf administration's implementation of RGGI is illegal and would harm the economy.
According to State Impact Pennsylvania, studies have shown that states participating in RGGI have seen net job and GDP gains, but that demand for coal in power generation declines.