Policy Constraints Force Electric Bills Up in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians’ electric bills rose by an average of nearly three-quarters over the last two years and policymakers have only made the problem worse, according to the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation (CF). 

State residents served by Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) have seen their rates go up by just over half since December 2020. Customers of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) have meanwhile experienced a doubling of their power costs during that time. All other providers have also risen their rates considerably. 

The Keystone State is a major site for fossil-fuel generation, having experienced a boom in natural-gas extraction over the last decade. But both state and federal policy have hindered the state from realizing its potential for energy abundance. 

“Pennsylvania is the second largest net supplier of energy to other states, after Texas,” CF points out in a recent fact sheet. “Yet Pennsylvania producers face large infrastructure constraints and restrictions on the development of natural gas.”

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an association of businesses with interest in natural-gas development, determined that state regulations have forced the shelving of plans to construct roughly seven billion cubic feet of fuel pipelines. That’s no small matter for the two-thirds of Pennsylvanians who primarily heat their homes with natural gas, as scarcity has driven up costs for them. 

Public policy has impeded the development of other fuels as well. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal plants generate approximately one-tenth of Pennsylvanians’ electricity, but federal rules have made coal-fired sites increasingly difficult to operate. As a result, the Conemaugh Generating Station northwest of Johnstown and the Keystone Power Plant northwest of Indiana Borough are scheduled for closure by 2028, despite those sites’ combined capacity to power roughly 3 million households.  

Despite the heightened electricity expenses Pennsylvanians are enduring, the burden could enlarge significantly if the state fully implements carbon taxation pursuant to its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Governor Tom Wolf (D) entered into the multi-state compact without the consent of the Republican-led legislature, prompting litigation that continues. 

Fossil-fuel advocates have little chance of stopping RGGI with Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) set to take over for the retiring Wolf next year. Although Shapiro did not explicitly commit to continuing Pennsylvania’s membership in the initiative, he is widely expected to do so in light of the far-left environmentalist record he compiled as a member of the state legislature in the early 2000s. 

The Power PA Jobs Alliance, a coalition of corporate and labor interests aligned against RGGI, estimates that the initiative’s implementation will lead to electricity-rate hikes across the state by between one-fourth and one-third. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Paying Bills” by Mikhail Nilov.



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