Metcalfe introduces impeachment resolution for outgoing DEP secretary
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-12, introduced a resolution in the House Friday calling for the impeachment of outgoing Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced in May that McDonnell would be leaving his role as of July 2, to be replaced by Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh. Ziadeh is listed as Acting Secretary on the DEP’s website.
The resolution was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
Although McDonnell no longer serves in the role, Metcalfe said in a statement about House Resolution 219 that stepping down did not “absolve” McDonnell of his actions as department secretary.
“McDonnell must be held accountable for transforming the DEP into a completely lawless, job-killing, business-condemning regulatory agency,” Metcalfe said. “McDonnell’s resignation does not absolve, reduce the urgency or diminish the importance of holding public officials fully accountable for their actions. “
The Articles of Impeachment include accusations by Metcalfe centered on McDonnell’s work on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program joined by 11 New England and Mid-Atlantic states that is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
RGGI is described as a “cap and trade” program that sets a regulatory limit on CO2 emissions by requiring plants to purchase CO2 allowances equal to the amount of CO2 they emit. Power plants were required to begin accounting for their CO2 emissions starting on July 1.
Pennsylvania finalized regulation to join the initiative on April 22. The program is under examination in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania by Republican lawmakers and coal-fired power plant representatives, respectively, in two separate cases.
Metcalfe argued that the DEP was not authorized to impose a carbon emissions tax for the RGGI program, adding that “the core of the regulation involves a tax, which can only be implemented under the Constitution by the General Assembly, not by the executive branch of Pennsylvania's government.”
Metcalfe also cited a lack of in-person hearings on the RGGI regulations in impacted communities as required under the Air Pollution Control Act, as opposed to the 10 virtual public hearings that were held. He also cited a potential Sunshine Act violation related to an Environmental Quality Board (EQB) meeting that was closed to the public.
The other articles of impeachment cite a potential violation of the Administrative Code of 1929, which requires the department to promote regulations related to manganese; a potential violation of the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act; and a potential violation of the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Development Act related to the emission of volatile organic compounds.
“The repeated refusal by the Secretary and his Department to follow the Constitution of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania's statutes is unequivocally misbehavior in office,” the articles read. “Secretary Patrick McDonnell is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.”
The impeachment resolution is co-sponsored by Butler County state house representatives Aaron Bernstine, R-10; R. Lee James, R-64; and Marci Mustello, R-11, along with five other Republican state house representatives.