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Senator raises questions about Pennsylvania DEP consultant

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, answers questions from reporters.

(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania state senator raised questions Wednesday about the impartiality of a consulting firm hired to do climate modeling for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Virginia-based ICF International analyzed the impact the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on Pennsylvania’s air quality for the DEP as the agency crafts rules for joining the program in 2022. It also won a $399,000 contract to complete modeling for the administration’s next climate action plan.

But the company also appeared as a signatory on several letters that encouraged both the Citizens Advisory Council and the Environmental Quality Board to support RGGI, as well on letters to lawmakers denouncing House Bill 2025 – which would require the General Assembly’s blessing to join the program before regulators could move forward.

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, penned a letter to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell on July 24 highlighting the “obvious” conflict of interest and asked the agency to do a “top down reboot of the RGGI idea.”

“I am not going to waste either of our time by detailing why this scenario raises serious ethical issues as well as questions of transparency,” he said. “In short, ICF has shown that it is biased and that its modeling work will always be subject to question.”

ICF reportedly told the PA Environmental Digest Blog – edited by former DEP Secretary David Hess – that the company had no knowledge of the letters nor gave permission to be listed as a signatory.

Neil Shader, a DEP spokesperson, reiterated the company’s response to Hess’s blog.

“It is DEP’s understanding that ICF was added to that letter in error, which is being corrected by the originator of the letter,” he said. “DEP has relied on ICF for modeling data for years and the company has delivered high quality data and analysis, and they are one of the leading research firms when it comes to the effects of climate change.”

“DEP stands by our modeling data, and will continue to develop a plan to reduce Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions from the energy generation sector,” he added.

Yaw, who chairs the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee where HB 2025 currently awaits consideration, isn’t convinced.

“If ICF’s name was included without their permission, how many other names were included without permission?” he said. “This whole scenario calls into question the validity of the letter in any respect.”

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