Pennsylvania's Clean Power Plan Stakeholder Process: You Speak, the DEP Listens

Starting on September 15th and running through November 4th, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will hold an impressive 14 "listening sessions" to engage the Commonwealth's citizens in the Clean Power Plan. (That's the EPA's historic initiative to cut carbon emissions from the nation's largest carbon polluters: existing power plants.) Governor Wolf and the DEP deserve a lot of credit for this. In their efforts to develop an EPA-mandated state implementation plan that best instructs power plants on how to cut carbon pollution under the CPP, they'll invite comments from residents and communities across the state, from those involved in clean energy development to those involved in coal mining and natural gas drilling and everyone in between, (Click here for the full schedule of the DEP's sessions. The DEP will also accept written comments until November 12.)

The reason for this really commendable public process? To begin with, under both federal and state law, citizens have a right to weigh in on what kind of plan the state develops to get utilities and power plants within their borders to cut the carbon pollution from power plants that endangers us all.

But obviously, there's more to it. Though federal law requires only one hearing as states develop their implementation plans, and Pennsylvania's own Greenhouse Gas Implementation Act (GHGIA) mandates just four, the state obviously understands that a good state plan is one that incorporates the diverse concerns of its state's residents and utilities, its power generators and labor unions, its faith-based organizations and its legislators. In this process, citizen input is key.

(An aside on the GHGIA: some fossil-fuel-funded organizations like the Koch-Brothers-Funded Americans for Prosperity have taken to claiming that the GHGIA gives the General Assembly the authority to prevent the DEP from submitting a plan to the EPA next year. In fact, Section 3 of the GHGIA explicitly requires the DEP to submit a plan: "the department shall develop and submit to the EPA a State Plan." The law just establishes a process for the legislature to vet the plan, and to express its support or non-support, as the case may be.)

What does the DEP want to hear about, in its listening sessions? Generally, the DEP wants our input into how Pennsylvania can best fulfill the CPP's promise of clean energy, better air quality (and the improved public health that comes with it), lower electricity bills, and U.S. leadership on global-warming prevention. The agency also has 21 specific questions that it hopes you'll address. Among them:

  • Whether Pennsylvania should use a mass-based approach, which sets a total limit on the amount of carbon pollution power plants in the state can emit, or a rate-based approach, which sets a limit for the amount of carbon per megawatt of electricity generated;
  • How the state should use energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet emissions goals;
  • Whether and how the state should participate in emissions-trading programs;
  • How the state can best use our local resources in the overall effort to cut carbon pollution;
  • How the state can maintain its position as an energy exporter; and
  • How the state can help communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, air pollution, and economic issues resulting from the implementation of the CPP.

If you're in favor of better public health--and for the latest on the public health benefits of using energy efficiency and renewable energy to cut carbon emissions in Pennsylvania, see this new study from researchers at Harvard and Boston Universities--and you're one of the two-thirds of Pennsylvanians who polls say support a clean energy future for the Commonwealth, tell the DEP that you want a strong state plan that maximizes our impressive wind and solar power resources and the huge amount of energy efficiency available across our state.

This is your chance. To get on the DEP's schedule, contact Jennifer at the DEP Policy Office and let her know at which of the 14 listening sessions you'd like to comment. The phone number is 717-783-8727. Don't wait. There are only 30 to 40 slots at each event, and they're filling up fast.