Northeast States Standing Up for Right to be Protected from Carbon Pollution

Written by K. Diane Hoskins on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

Maine, New Hampshire, and Delaware have cast votes to continue working within a program that is succeeding at reducing carbon pollution in 10 Northeast states.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI, pronounced “Reggie”) places a limit on CO2 pollution from power plants, which must purchase allowances to cover their CO2 pollution. A significant portion of the money generated from the sale of these allowances is invested in state-driven energy-saving programs. This means saving money and less carbon pollution.

In New Hampshire, the state Senate rejected the House’s proposal to withdraw from RGGI and voted 16-8 to support the state’s continued involvement (11 Republicans joined all of the Senate Democrats). Next, the House (who voted to withdraw the state from RGGI) and Senate will have to agree before any changes to the program are made.

In a recent letter opposing the state’s repeal of RGGI, Governor John Lynch told the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee: “This legislation would result in New Hampshire ratepayers paying higher electric rates to subsidize efforts to reduce electric bills for customers in other Northeast states. This investment has saved homeowners money on their utility bills, saved taxpayers money, and helped to make New Hampshire businesses more competitive.”

In Maine, the Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology unanimously voted to continue the state’s participation in RGGI and rejected marginal calls to withdraw.

In Delaware, the House Energy committee voted 4-3 rejecting a bill to repeal the state from RGGI. Delaware Governor Jack Markell has noted that “RGGI offers an opportunity to invest needed resources in energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction efforts, and at the same time create jobs and help consumers reduce energy costs.”

From regular folks to business leaders and legislators, people are taking a critical look at the RGGI program and recognizing the successes and value of the program. Despite well-funded political pressure to eliminate RGGI, elected officials in the Northeast are affirming the value and successes of the program:
- To date, RGGI has raised $873 million for state reinvestments
- 80 percent of proceeds have been invested in clean energy and other consumer benefit programs
- Efficiency investments alone are receiving $441 million and generating $1.1 billion in consumer savings. These savings flow into the local economy and are estimated to generate an additional $2.6 billion in economic growth and 20,200 net jobs

One of the innovative features of the RGGI program is that it creates a direct financial incentive for electric utilities to replace high-carbon power sources with low-carbon (clean) power. A similar approach has been used with great success over the past two decades to achieve dramatic reductions in the sulfur dioxide pollution that was causing acid rain across much of the Eastern U.S. As long-time Northeasterners can attest, the acid rain that was killing local ponds and forests, and eroding the surfaces of buildings, plaques, and monuments back in the 1980s is no longer much in evidence.

Support for RGGI in the region is strong and yesterday’s votes emphasize this support. For example, in New Hampshire, Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports; Peter Egelston, president of Smuttynose Brewery; and Mark Bryden, vice president of Timberland shared their stories about the benefit of the RGGI program to the business community and the state.

The Nature Conservancy, which has been involved in the planning of RGGI for the past decade, applauds all these policy and business leaders who are standing up for the continuation of the program. It is the right course of action for the Northeast economy. And residents of this region should be proud to be among the nation’s leaders in presenting a way forward for a clean-energy economy that reduces carbon pollution and protects our health.

K. Diane Hoskins is the U.S. climate policy coordinator at The Nature Conservancy

Photo by Plymouth Energy (RGGI funds covered the costs to train these students at the New Hampton School in new Hampshire on how to install a solar water heating system.)

Video by Peter Adams of EVP Marketing & Media, in cooperation with Clean Air-Cool Planet

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