GOP sides with Oz in lawsuit over counting undated mail-in ballots

'Green' efforts could hit snag in Pa. budget

Greg Gross

A Philadelphia-area state lawmaker is warning a measure included in the proposed budget deal from the Senate could delay implementing Pennsylvania's Clean Power Plan and would divert money from renewable energy initiatives.

The measure, House Bill 1327, would redirect $12 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Act to the new Natural Gas Infrastructure Fund, where it would be distributed to hospitals, businesses, municipalities and school districts to help them connect to natural gas lines.

But Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware and Montgomery counties, said the bill would only hinder efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, highlighted in the last weekend's historic Paris agreement to combat climate change.

"This really is going in the opposite direction of the way we should be going," said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "We should not be working to expand natural gas. We should be working to expand renewable (energy)."

Clean Power Plan: The measure would also decrease oversight of the oil and gas industry and would require the state Department of Environment Protection to give the General Assembly it's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 180 days before it's due to the federal Environmental Protection Agency in early September.

Vitali said he fears that's not enough time for the agency to draft a plan that will put Pennsylvania on a path to compliance with the federal clean power plan. That plan aims to cut the nation's carbon emissions to a rate that's 32 percent lower than they were a decade ago by 2030.

An expedited due date would mean DEP would have to hand in its plan around early March, said John Walliser, senior vice president of legal and government affairs with the nonprofit Pennsylvania Environmental Commission.

And if the plan gets hung up in the General Assembly, it would mean the state would have to adhere to federal regulations, instead of implementing its own plan, he said.

"From our standpoint, we don't think it's good policy to include this at the 11th hour," Walliser said of the Senate adding the language to a budget proposal that's already five months overdue.

Getting votes?: Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, echoed the sentiment. He has been a vocal critic of the overall Senate budget proposal, which calls for a sales tax increase to cover a 6 percent spending increase.

"There's a lot of things that were put in there to get votes," he said of the budget framework top Senate Republicans and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf agreed to. "It just begs the question. Is there a framework?"

Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said he's philosophically opposed to moving money earmarked for alternative energy, but added it could be part of a broader compromise to get a budget signed into law.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan, said the governor is committed to the Clean Power Plan.

“Gov. Wolf opposes loading up the fiscal code to gut oil and gas regulations or slow implementation of the Clean Power Plan," he said.

The fiscal code bill cleared the Senate by a 48-2 vote last week and is now in the House Rules Committee.

— Reach Greg Gross at