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GOP Senators Concerned About Emissions Capping Program, Skeptical About Climate Change

Keith Srakocic
Traffic moves through the falling snow down southbound I79 near Evans City, Pa. on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.

Pennsylvania state senators held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the possibility of joininga regional proposal to limit the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Transportation and Climate Initiative would cap greenhouse gap emissions from suppliers and distributors of gasoline and diesel fuel. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are involved in drafting the plan, but parties won't officially sign on until the spring. 

Pennsylvania's departments of Transportation and Department of Environmental are both involved in TCI development. At the joint hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee and Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, PennDOT Acting Secretary Yassmin Gramian said the department supports investments in clean transportation.

"That said, the administration does not support, and I'd like to emphasize that, does not support raising the gas tax," Gramian said. "It is important that any plan is in the overall best interest of all Pennsylvanians."

Several GOP lawmakers were concerned that emissions caps would lead fuel suppliers and distributors to raise prices for consumers. Sen. Kim Ward, a Republican from Westmoreland County, chairs the Transportation Committee, and she said a price increase would impact some Pennsylvanians more than others.

"When the price of gas goes up, if effects more rural Pennsylvanians because we don't have the luxury of walking outside and catching a bus or train," Ward said.

Some Republican lawmakers also expressed skepticism about the dangers presented by a changing climate, while Democrats said climate change is an existential threat that should be addressed.

According to a DEP spokesperson, the decision to join TCI would not have to win approval from the state legislature. Public input on TCI will be accepted until the end of February.