Pennsylvania's RGGI Should Include Agricultural Practices that Reduce CO2 Emissions and Sequester Carbon

Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board

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Pennsylvania is set to take part in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce climate change pollution from electric power plants. Pennsylvania’s power sector, currently the fifth dirtiest in the nation, could achieve significant emission reductions through RGGI while creating value in myriad ways by driving investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation and carbon capture activities on the ground.

The agricultural offsets listed in the draft CO2 Budget Trading Program regulations should be expanded to include additional cost-effective agricultural practices that reduce CO2 emissions and sequester carbon. Many of the practices recognized as improving soil health also reduce carbon emissions and, in some cases, sequester atmospheric carbon in soil. These practices include no-till or reduced tillage; cover crops and diversified crop rotations; rotational grazing; reduced pesticide and fertilizer use; agroforestry practices such as silvopasture, windbreaks, hedgerows and riparian forest buffers; and soil amendments like manure, compost and biochar.

These practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality also provide benefits such as farm resilience in the face of extreme weather and overall increases in farm profitability. Farms can be a larger part of the greenhouse gas solution, if given more incentives, technical support and funding.

Sign on to this letter by noon on January 14 to the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board urging them to include additional cost-effective agricultural practices that reduce CO2 emissions and sequester carbon in the CO2 Budget Trading Program. We will submit the letter with your signature on January 14, 2021.

To: Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board
From: [Your Name]

The petition signers (below) are in support of the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board’s (EQB) proposal for Pennsylvania to take part in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce climate change pollution from electric power plants. Pennsylvania’s power sector, currently the fifth dirtiest in the nation, could achieve significant emission reductions through RGGI while creating value in myriad ways by driving investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation and carbon capture activities on the ground.

The petition signers support the three offset categories listed in the draft Chapter 145 preliminary regulations – landfill methane reduction; tree planting, forest management and avoided forest conversion; and agricultural methane reduction. We also believe the agricultural offsets should be expanded to include additional cost-effective agricultural practices that reduce CO2 emissions and sequester carbon.

Nationwide, agricultural production is responsible for almost 10% of total U.S. emissions (U.S. EPA. “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.” 2017). The recent surge in activity across states to promote and fund soil health practices is a response to soil loss and soil productivity loss, farm foreclosures, water quality and air quality impairment, climate change, and increased frequency and damage from flooding and drought, driven by climate change.

Seven states have adopted healthy soils bills, and Pennsylvania partners are developing a program as well. Many of the practices recognized as improving soil health also reduce carbon emissions and, in some cases, sequester atmospheric carbon in soil. These practices include no-till or reduced tillage; cover crops and diversified crop rotations; rotational grazing; reduced pesticide and fertilizer use; agroforestry practices such as silvopasture, windbreaks, hedgerows and riparian forest buffers; and soil amendments like manure, compost and biochar.

Healthy soils improve water quality by keeping more sediment and nutrients from washing into streams and improve air quality by keeping soil from blowing away into the air. Healthy soils require fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, which in turn lower costs of inputs that help farmers economically.

Many states are passing soil health legislation to incentivize farmers to adopt practices more quickly to address climate change. Pennsylvania partners, including Pasa, are working on a soil health roadmap to outline the best way to fund and promote healthy soil practices in PA. A CO2 Budget Trading Program under the auspices of the RGGI would be an ideal and logical place to incorporate and help fund these practices.

Agriculture is uniquely positioned to utilize funds from RGGI to increase carbon capture, increase renewable energy, and increase efficiency. Agriculture provides a diverse menu of options for investment like biodigesters, renewable energy deployment, soil carbon storage, plant carbon storage (trees, hemp, etc..), fleet/equipment electrification, and building energy efficiency.

The very same practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality also provide benefits such as farm resilience in the face of extreme weather and overall increases in farm profitability. Farms can be a larger part of the greenhouse gas solution, if given more incentives, technical support and funding. We urge that the agricultural offsets in the CO2 Budget Trading Program be expanded to include additional cost-effective agricultural practices that reduce CO2 emissions and sequester carbon.