Astounding Health and Energy Benefits of Northeast Program Detailed in New Findings

Written by Sarah Murdock on . Posted in Act

The House of Representatives in New Hampshire seems to be walking in lockstep with some of the federal Congressional efforts to strip protections on the clean air of all Americans.

The New Hampshire House voted 246-104 last week to repeal its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The legislators did so on an unfounded platform claiming RGGI hurts the economy.

But New Hampshire’s House members would have been wise to hold their vote a few days. On Monday, RGGI released a thorough economic analysis of the program’s operations and found that the 10 participating states are:

Investing 80 percent of nearly $800 million generated in proceeds from “CO2 allowances” over the past two years in consumer benefit and strategic energy programs. Energy efficiency programs account for the largest share of RGGI investments. There are $3 to $4 in benefits for every $1 invested. These state investments have created jobs, reduced energy costs, and generated high economic returns.

These findings align perfectly with another major new report from the Environmental Protection Agency. It found that for every dollar spent on regulations to cut air pollution over the last 30 years, we’ve earned more than $30 in savings to go along with tremendous public health benefits.

Think about what kind of budget difficulties we would be in today if not for the Clean Air Act? The EPA report found that, in Los Angeles, for example, where clean air has improved greatly thanks to the act, local residents still spend about $22 billion annually in costs related to dirty air such as health illnesses, premature death, and lost days at work and school.

Simply put, the New Hampshire and U.S. House of Representatives don’t seem to be listening to their constituencies. More than three out of four Americans want the EPA to hold strong regulations on air pollutants, according to the American Lung Association.

Even in a relatively small state like New Hampshire, the economic savings and job benefits from the RGGI program couldn’t be clearer. From 2009 alone, the RGGI program generated $18 million in proceeds that New Hampshire invested in energy efficiency programs. New Hampshire’s Public Utility Commission estimates that these investments would prevent 220,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution from entering the air, spur $60 million in lifetime energy bill saving for consumers, and provide specialized energy efficiency training for 170 workers.

Huffington Post blogger Joanna Zelman really brings it home for RGGI. She noted that Joseph “Chick” Celentano, the owner of New Haven, Connecticut’s landmark restaurant Chick’s Drive-In, received financial incentives for the purchase and installation of more efficient lighting and refrigeration equipment. He is now saving hundreds of dollars on his electricity bill each month and – over the lifetime of the new equipment – his electricity savings will be the equal of planting 56 acres of trees or saving more than 17,000 gallons of gas. And Chick’s restaurant is one of 1,900 small-business owners benefiting from the success of RGGI – in Connecticut alone!

The Nature Conservancy, which has been involved in the planning of RGGI for the past decade, applauds Republican leaders in the New Hampshire state Senate, who just this week decided the House position to repeal RGGI is not good for the New Hampshire economy. They plan to work on legislation to keep the program intact but invest more energy efficiency dollars into businesses.

People in New Hampshire should make sure their state senators know they want clean air and they want to keep RGGI.

Sarah Murdock is senior climate policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy

Photo by Flickr user PSNH (http://www.flickr.com/photos/psnh/3595837696/) (Workers hoist solar panels onto the roof of Energy Park in Manchester, New Hampshire.)

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