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Court strikes down key Pa. climate program

Plus, the GOP's mail-voting about-face.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, November 2, 2023
In today's edition: RGGI block, lingering doubts, lobbying forces, rural billions, cashback offer, vulnerable populations, and an illegal mask tax?

Commonwealth Court on Wednesday stopped Pennsylvania's contested effort to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, calling the money raised through the program an unconstitutional tax. 

The court sided with Republican lawmakers who claimed the Department of Environmental Protection did not have the authority to collect revenue from the program — specifically through a per-ton price on CO2 emissions from power plants — and that only the legislature legally could.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. court strikes down a key climate program, but environmentalists expect an appeal.

THE CONTEXT: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI program is a multistate consortium meant to reduce climate-warming emissions. 

Former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf led the charge, drawing pushback from Republican lawmakers and industry groups. Wolf's Democratic successor, Josh Shapiro, has struck a more ambivalent tone on RGGI. 

Now it's up to Shapiro to appeal Wednesday's Commonwealth Court rulings to the state Supreme Court. A spokesperson did not say whether the administration plans to do so but said it's reviewing the matter.


"I know that cannabis is compared to alcohol a lot. I’d also like to introduce the concept of it being compared to coffee—caffeine."

—Amanda Reiman of New Frontier Data in Wednesday's Pennsylvania House committee hearing on legalizing adult-use cannabis here
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At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this November by visiting our Election Center website

» See how judges affect you and the issues you care about most

» Pa. Supreme Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Pa. Superior Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

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» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

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A completed harvest in Adams County, via Cheryl C. R. Have a Pennsylvania photo you want the whole commonwealth to see? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A field of cut corn stalks under a crystal blue sky.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.WALKED BACK: After years of vilifying the option, Republicans in Pennsylvania are embracing and encouraging mail voting, but they're years behind Democrats on that messaging and The Inquirer (paywall) reports the damage may already be done. The paper says Republicans seriously lag Democrats in mail ballot requests, and the number requested by Democrats in this off-year election has surpassed the last one.
  • RELATED: Very few voters are deciding local races in Pennsylvania. We break it down to the top 50 towns, via the Courier Times
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'EXTREME EMBRACE': New research from climate group F Minus says dozens of Pittsburgh governmental, educational, cultural, and environmental organizations have hired lobbying firms who work with planet-heating fossil fuel companies — an image rehabilitation opportunity for the lobbying firms and a possible conflict of interest for those city clients simultaneously raising climate change alarms. Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BIDEN BARNSTORM: President Joe Biden is up for reelection and touting a $5 billion plan to invest in rural America, a region where Democrats saw gains in 2022 but still have ground to make up. The money covers economic development, climate change mitigation for farms, high-speed internet, and more. Biden touted the plan in Minnesota on Wednesday and will do the same in Pennsylvania soon.
  • RELATED: What this year’s state budget means for Pennsylvania’s shrinking rural communities, via Spotlight PA
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.LATE PAYMENTS: If the state is late processing your permit- or license-related paperwork, you might be entitled to a refund under a new online money-back guarantee system launched by Gov. Josh Shapiro Wednesday. PennLive reports the program, billed as the first in the nation, will provide refunds to people, businesses, or organizations whose paperwork isn’t processed within the promised time frame
  • RELATED: Pennsylvania’s corporate filing switch led to backlog and longer waits for business owners, via Spotlight PA
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DEFAMATION SUIT: Democratic Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley has filed a $1 million defamation suit against a local Republican committee over a political mailer placing him at a "pro-Hamas" rally. Pinsley says the Oct. 13 Allentown rally was pro-Palestine, not pro-Hamas. His lawyer calls the mailer "a false attack on a person of Jewish faith, intended to destroy his reputation in the Jewish community."

MASK TAX: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit alleging Foot Locker, American Eagle Outfitters, The Gap, and other retailers violated state law by charging sales tax on cloth COVID-19 masks.

ACTION PLAN: Under pressure from pro-Israel donors, the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday unveiled a university-wide action plan to combat antisemitism. It includes a new University Task Force on Antisemitism.

$7.1M IN DAMAGES: A Shippensburg woman has been awarded $7.1 million by an Illinois jury for injuries she suffered when a can of Conagra-made cooking spray exploded in her workplace kitchen in 2017.

O SAY: The Pennsylvania Farm Show wants to hear you sing "The Star Spangled Banner." Farm Show fans will vote on the submissions, and the 10 best will win a chance to do it again live at the big event.

LAWN FLIPS: Are you a business or homeowner looking to convert your lawn to a more eco-friendly meadow? Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has funding to help.

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