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Environment & Energy

Despite Legal Limbo, Pennsylvania Continues Work On Clean Power Plan

Keith Srakocic

President Barack Obama’s major climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, is currently in legal limbo as federal courts decide its fate.  

But Governor Tom Wolf’s administration has decided to keep working on it anyway.

The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to cut emissions from existing power plants by about a third over the next 15 years. It would mean closing hundreds of coal-fired plants and shifting the grid to more renewable forms of energy. Each state is supposed to come up with its own path to accomplish this.

At a recent legislative hearing Rep. Jeff Pyle (R- Armstrong) lamented the decline of the state’s coal industry and the layoffs workers have faced.

“I come from western Pennsylvania and it’s just breaking our hearts to watch 300 men at a time get shut down, because our coal plants can’t meet the Clean Power Plan,” said Pyle. “I also noted smoke signals coming out of the [Wolf] administration said, ‘We’re gonna go ahead and comply with this, even though the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.’”

Actually, that didn’t happen. The plan has not been declared unconstitutional.

Earlier this year, in a surprise 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay. It means the plan can’t move forward until the legal challenges to it are sorted out. John Quigley heads the state Department of Environmental Protection. He says Pennsylvania should keep working on it, even though the future is uncertain.

“One potential outcome of the stay is that if the rule survives intact and the 2018 submission date survives intact we’d have less time to plan if we stopped.”

Find more of this report on the site of our partner, StateImpact Pennsylvania