Legislative mischief: The state’s carbon plan should be devised by experts

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Opponents of President Barack Obama’s plan to combat carbon pollution might sermonize about choice and control, but a bill that passed the state House of Representatives Tuesday could unwittingly undermine Pennsylvanians’ ability to chart their own future.

Under federal guidelines issued in June, the state Department of Environmental Protection must submit a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on how Pennsylvania will cut emissions from existing power plants by almost a third by 2030.

But House Bill 2354 from state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene County, would impose a number of constraints on the state plan, notably the requirement that it be approved by the General Assembly first.

Requiring such legislative approval not only would allow politics to undercut the work of the state’s authorities on Pennsylvania energy usage, but it also would increase the chance that the state will miss the deadline for submitting a plan on time. Then the federal government could impose its own plan on Pennsylvanians, an outcome no one wants.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Giving legislators the final say on the plan could also result in the state submitting to the same special interests that lawmakers serve. Industries would be able to influence the plan at the expense of its protection for Pennsylvanians, their resources and environment.

No matter how much legislators huff and puff, the Clean Air Act is the law of the land, and climate change is a reality that the world must address. The bill seems motivated by either political opportunism or scientific denial, declaring, “reasonably priced reliable sources of electric power generated in this Commonwealth are vital to the health, safety and welfare” of its residents.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to prevent 6,600 deaths, cut carbon emissions by 30 percent and reduce particle pollution by 25 percent, is a huge step forward for America and the environment. It should not be a step backward for Pennsylvania because of a bill that invites legislative interference.

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