Executive Summary

This advisory addresses the implementation of Act 70 of 2008, the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act. The following summarizes the December 5, 2008, meeting of the Climate Change Advisory Committee and the December 15, 2008, Climate Change Business Stakeholder Group meeting. The Climate Change Advisory Committee was legislatively created to advise the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding the implementation of Act 70, including but not limited to the development of: a climate change action plan; annual greenhouse gas inventories; an impacts assessment report; a voluntary greenhouse gas emissions registry; and any other climate change-related activities the DEP might request. The department, in consultation with the committee, must file a climate change action plan by October 2009, identifying: greenhouse gas emission and sequestration trends; strategies from reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and recommendations for legislative changes to address climate change.

Background

The committee is authorized and organized pursuant to Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008. It is charged with advising the DEP on actions related to climate change; creating a report on potential climate change impacts and economic opportunities for the commonwealth; and developing an action plan to implement cost-effective strategies to reduce or offset the commonwealth's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Pursuant to Act 70, there are 21 members  of the committee, 18 appointed and three ex officio. Six voting members were appointed by the governor. Six voting members were appointed by the Senate; of these members, the majority leader of the Senate appointed four members and the minority leader appointed two. Six voting members were appointed by the House of Representatives; of these members, four were appointed by the majority leader and two by the minority leader. Ex officio voting members are the secretary of conservation and natural resources, the secretary of community and economic development and the chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, or their designees.

On October 3, 2009, the committee selected Sarah Hetznecker of Conergy to serve as chairwoman and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Michael DiBerardinis to serve as vice chairman. Hetznecker is a project development director for Conergy, the world’s largest solar integration company. DiBerardinis has served as secretary of DCNR since 2003.

Discussion

The agenda for the December 5 Climate Change Advisory Committee meeting included: review of task and time management for the development of a climate change action plan; comments of the qualifications and experience for the DEP's invitation to bid for the scope of work on identifying overall impacts of climate change initiatives for Pennsylvania's economy; a presentation from the Center for Climate Change Strategies; public comment; and discussion of subcommittee membership.

Concerning the legislative mandate to develop a climate change action plan, the committee discussed time and task management. The DEP intends to draft the first climate change action plan by February 4, 2008. Public comment on the climate change action plan will be accepted from February 28 through April 28, 2009. All committee recommendations for greenhouse gas reductions, options, targets and deadlines must be made by June 14, 2009. The committee will have the opportunity to recommend edits to the final draft of the climate change action plan from July 28 through August 28, 2009.

Act 70 requires the development of a report on the potential scientific and economic impacts of climate change to Pennsylvania within 15 months and every three years after the effective date of the legislation (July 2009). The department has proposed an invitation to bid for the modeling scope of work for the report. This report is to be prepared by a group of academicians representing two or more Pennsylvania universities and/or colleges. The selected team of researchers must represent faculty members who are experienced in: climate change modeling and downscaling; global or regional impacts assessments; microeconomic and macroeconomic modeling; and identifying economic impacts associated with the effects of climate change. The committee discussed the qualifications and experience for the scope of work and strongly suggested that bidders for the research project should have extensive knowledge of the Pennsylvania electricity market and the PJM interconnection.

The committee discussed a draft scoring system for committee discussion and deliberation of potential consideration of greenhouse gas reductions. The scoring system is intended as a tool for evaluating proposals, rather than making final determinations selecting certain measures.

The committee also addressed subcommittee membership. The following subcommittees were formed: Electricity Generation, Transmission & Distribution, Industry & Waste, Residential & Commercial, Land Use & Transportation, Agriculture & Forestry, and State & Local Government. The purpose of the subcommittees is to make recommendations to the full committee regarding reduction options. After debate on whether subcommittee membership was limited to those committee members set forth in Act 70, it was determined that Act 70 did not permit participation of individuals not specifically designated, although the subcommittees could receive input from individuals not on the committee. All subcommittee meetings will be published in accordance with the Sunshine Act and posted to the DEP website. Each subcommittee met after the full committee meeting to discuss work plans, select leadership and identify DEP administrative support.

The only public comment at the meeting was from Gary Swan, a representative of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, who expressed displeasure that agriculture was not formally represented on the committee. Mr Swan noted that agriculture is the top industry in Pennsylvania and strongly supports environmental programs (odor regulation, biodiesel, carbon sequestration). He suggested that the omission of agriculture was a legislative oversight and asked that the Farm Bureau to participate in some manner.

Tom Peterson, chief executive officer of the Center from Climate Change, made a presentation on other states' climate change efforts. The presentation is available at www.climatestrategies.com. The committee discussed the process for involving external technical or sector experts at future meetings.

On December 15, 2008, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce held a Business Stakeholder Group meeting to discuss the potential concerns with the efforts of the committee to date. The main concern expressed by the stakeholder group was that the DEP may have a predetermined agenda. Participants in the stakeholder group called the current timeline unrealistic and said the committee could not meet legislative objectives without first issuing an impact statement. The stakeholder group is looking for a legislative fix for the timeline in the new session, arguing that a full record of options must be developed regarding the impact of GHG reductions before submitting any action plan to the legislature. The stakeholder group said the process appeared timeline-driven to justify a possible action plan desired by the current administration. The group indicated that any proposed plan for CO2 reduction for Pennsylvania alone would be a wasted effort unless it was part of a global strategy. The group also said there were too many scientific uncertainties to implement a reduction plan that would only hurt the economy and also suggested that assumptions of an economic boom of green jobs are inaccurate. The stakeholder group suggested that Pennsylvania pace its climate change action plan to coincide with federal initiatives on the way.

The next committee meeting will be January 22, 2009. There will be at least two conference calls prior to the January 22 meeting. Future committee meetings are scheduled for February 4 and June 3, 2009. The stakeholder group also plans to meet prior to January 22 to discuss strategic options.