U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent voted against H.R. 2454, a 1,300-page bill commonly referred to as cap and trade legislation, as introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). During the House floor debate, Congressman Dent spoke against the legislation (video is attached), citing members of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission who say that the costs to Americans under the Waxman-Markey bill will be “staggering.”

Congressman Dent issued the following statement on the legislation:

“Today, Congress passed a massive energy tax. In Pennsylvania, 56% of the electricity we consume comes from coal-fired power plants. Our state is the nation’s third largest consumer of coal and the fourth largest producer. Coal, the resource that powered America though its industrialization, remains an incredibly abundant, efficient and cheap energy source for millions of Pennsylvanians. Due to Pennsylvania’s reliance on coal, the price of electricity in our state would increase dramatically under a cap and trade regime as the federal government deliberately drives up the cost to produce energy from fossil fuels as a means to curb carbon emissions. With rate caps set to expire across the state, Pennsylvania families can ill-afford any additional increases to their electric bills. PPL customers’ rates will increase substantially – this is an increase in addition to what is projected with rates caps expiring in 2010.

Beyond homeowners, this policy will have serious reverberations on energy-intensive industries in our region that depend on reliable and affordable supplies of power to keep pace with increasingly-competitive foreign producers. This legislation will compel some manufacturers to shift production to facilities located in nations without cap-and-trade policies (including China and India) to avoid increased costs, leading to considerable domestic job losses. Additionally, this shift will have a negative impact on reducing carbon emissions, as most production will be relocated to countries without commensurate environmental standards, an affect commonly referred to as ‘carbon leakage’.

Not surprisingly, the authors of H.R. 2454 (Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts) and its most vocal supporters in Congress are from regions of the country that will be the least impacted under the new system (primarily the West Coast and New England). Cap-and-trade is naturally more palatable in areas where utility bills will marginally increase and few blue collar jobs will be put as risk. Unfortunately, states like Pennsylvania will be disproportionately impacted by an overly-expansive policy. This legislation represents a massive transfer of wealth from the industrial and agricultural heartland of America to coastal states.

In a recent letter to Congressional officials, members of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC), the state regulatory agency that oversees the energy industry, voiced serious concerns over the potential impact of H.R. 2454. They explained, ‘if the Waxman-Markey bill were to pass, Pennsylvania is looking at a bleak scenario by 2020: a net loss of as many as 60,000 jobs, a sizeable hike in the electric bills of residential customers, an increase in natural gas prices, and a significant downward pressure on our gross state product.’. They continue… ‘The cost estimates are staggering’.

“Pursuing a comprehensive energy solution that advances traditional, alternative and renewable energy sources is a national imperative. While reducing carbon levels is certainly important, we must do so in a manner that encourages the continued development of our nation’s dynamic and powerful economy, not one that restricts it. I believe we must embrace an approach that includes short-term and long-term strategies.

“In the short-term, Congress must work with the American industrial sector and scientific community to develop cleaner technologies that recognize the current needs and capabilities of the domestic economy. The reality is our nation is not technologically prepared to simply abandon carbon-based fuels in favor of alternative energy sources without experiencing significant economic pain.

“In the long-term, we must expand nuclear energy production and support the utilization of clean energy technologies in every application possible – including agriculture production, electricity generation, manufacturing, transportation, and even consumer goods. This will allow our economy to end its carbon reliance in a responsible, yet progressive way that does not impose unnecessary hardship on the American people.”