These Allegheny County reps voted to block an environmental plan meant to lower emissions | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

These Allegheny County reps voted to block an environmental plan meant to lower emissions

Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) announced Pennsylvania would be joining 10 other northeastern states in an environmental program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This program, which was created in 2009, includes a rule that would place a price on each ton of carbon released into the atmosphere during electricity generation.

In a state like Pennsylvania, which still has a bevy of coal-fired and natural-gas power plants, that’s a big deal in terms of lowering emissions and combating climate change. According to the state's Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania emits 264 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, which is the fourth most of any U.S. state.

Virtually all state Republicans were opposed to the initiative, so much so that they wrote House Bill 2025 which, if passed and signed, would block Wolf from joining the initiative unilaterally and would require the governor to get approval from the legislature before joining RGGI. In the bill, Republicans claimed controlling or limiting greenhouse gas emissions will have large negative economic impacts on the commonwealth.


Yesterday, HB 2025 passed through the state House by a vote of 130-71. Only four Republicans voted against the bill, and the entire Allegheny County Republican House delegation backed the bill. This includes State Reps. Bob Brooks (R-Murrysville), Valerie Gaydos (R-Aleppo), Natalie Mihalek (R-Upper St. Clair), Lori Mizgorski (R-Shaler), Jason Ortitay (R-Cecil) and Mike Puskaric (R-Elizabeth)

The Pennsylvania legislature is controlled by Republicans. Meaning that if the bill did become law, they would have say over whether to join the RGGI, and with their caucus almost completely in unison against it, Pennsylvania's RGGI inclusion would be effectively blocked.

Most Democrats rejected the bill, but it still received significant support from some, particularly Democrats in Western Pennsylvania.

Despite the fact that a poll from 2019 shows that 79% of Pennsylvanians support regulations on limiting carbon emissions from Pennsylvania power plants, and that Democrats who support this policy enjoy a 19-point margin over a generic Republican that opposes this plan, there were still nine Democrats in Allegheny County that supported the bill that would effectively block Wolf from entering this plan if passed and signed.


Wolf has vowed to veto this bill, and as of now, there is not enough support to override his veto. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

The bill is similar to HB 1100, a vetoed bill that was meant to provide tax breaks to petrochemical industries, in that it has been decried by environmentalists, but boosted by trades unions that work with fossil-fuel companies. HB 1100 also received significant support from Allegheny County Democrats who are aligned with trades unions. Petrochemical companies are keen to build cracker plants in the Pittsburgh area. The plants refine natural gas, which is fracked from nearby wells, into plastic pellets. A cracker plant currently under construction in Beaver County is permitted to emit 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of adding more than 480,000 cars to the region.

Here are the nine Allegheny County Democrats that supported HB 2025:

State Rep. Dan Deasy (D-West End) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Resides in a district that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried by 61-35 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Penn Hills) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Resides in a district that Clinton carried by 59-38 margin in 2016.


State Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Oakmont) - Dermody is the Democratic Minority Leader of the state House. His press secretary Bill Patton said in a statement that Dermody’s vote for HB 2025 was “a vote to protect jobs.” Dermody’s district is home to a power plant that creates electricity through steam generated from burning coal. Patton says the district relies on the “cheap electricity produced in Pennsylvania.”

“Going forward Rep. Dermody hopes to see more consultation between affected industries, the unions representing workers in these industries and the administration about what joining RGGI will mean to all of us in the short term and the long term,” said Patton. “The legislature and administration should work together to develop a plan.”

In 2012, Dermody voted against the $1.6 billion state incentive package to support the Beaver County cracker plant, but voted in favor of HB 1100 earlier this year. Resides in a district that Republican President Donald Trump carried by 51-45 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Dravosburg) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Kortz is retiring this year. Trump carried his district by 50-46 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Anita Kulik (D-Kennedy) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100. Resides in a district that Clinton carried by 50-47 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Brandon Markosek (D-Monroeville) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100. Resides in a district that Clinton carried by 50-47 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Bob Matzie (D-Ambridge) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Resides in a district Trump carried by 50-46 margin in 2016.

State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl (D-Ross) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Resides in a district Clinton carried by 60-35 margin in 2016. Ravenstahl lost his Democratic primary to challenger Emily Kinkead (D-North Side).

State Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Carrick) - Didn’t respond to a request for comment on HB 2025. Also supported HB 1100, and the 2012 subsidies that provided a $1.6 billion state incentive package to the cracker plant in Beaver County. Resides in a district Clinton carried by 56-39 margin in 2016. Readshaw is retiring at the end of this year.

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