Author: Wolf and EQB erred

Author Vince Phillips questions the constitutionality of a decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without legislative approval.

Regrettably, the July 13th 15-4 vote by the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Rule did not appear to consider an important issue — PA’s Constitution.

There is pretty clear language that questions the legitimacy of Governor Wolf’s unilateral action to have PA sign on to what is really an interstate compact; somewhat similar to the River Commissions which required formal authorizing legislative approval for PA to join.

I think this vote expressed a desire to address climate change as expeditiously as possible; regardless of insufficient legal backup as to whether it was supported by the PA Constitution. 

§ 6.  Taxation of corporations.
        The power to tax corporations and corporate property shall
     not be surrendered or suspended by any contract or grant to
     which the Commonwealth shall be a party.
     (Apr. 23, 1968, P.L.App.9, Prop. No.5)
        1968 Amendment.  Proposal No.5 amended and renumbered former
     section 3 to present section 6.
        Prior Provisions.  Former section 6 was renumbered to present
     section 8 by amendment of April 23, 1968, P.L.App.5, Prop. No.3.

 “power to tax…shall not be surrendered or suspended” looks applicable here.  Regardless of whether one is personally pro or con RGGI, an underlying issue that has not been adequately addressed is the PA Constitution.  

Today’s vote pretty much guarantees a constitutional challenge.

I would respectfully submit, in addition; that today’s vote and the Governor’s original action sets a precedent for future Governors to go it alone regarding interstate arrangements.  A Governor with a different ideology than the incumbent would want to take advantage of this precedent; and do something that 15 of the EQB members would one day regret.

Regards, Vince Phillips, Retired PA Lobbyist

Vince Phillips retired as a professional lobbyist in January 2021 after 31 years of advocacy at the State Capitol.
Disclaimer:  The views expressed are those of a private citizen and should not be construed as representing advocacy for any of my former clients.

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