Thursday, August 24, 2017

9 Eastern States Agree to Cut Power Plant Emissions an Extra 30%

Five of the states have Republican governors.  The RGGI proposal follows California's vote to extend its cap-and-trade program to fight climate change.

Everett, Mass, gas plant - The states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, broke new ground when they launched the nation's first carbon cap-and-trade program in 2009. (Credit: Todd Van Hoosear/CC-BY-SA-2.0) Click to Enlarge.
Nine eastern states announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a proposal to cut global-warming pollution from the region's power plants an additional 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

The compact of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has worked for two years to hammer out the next step in their landmark emissions cap-and-trade program, which puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions from the production of electricity.  The program has a track record of cutting emissions fairly painlessly across a densely populated section of the country.

Advocacy groups and policy makers have been closely watching the outcome of the negotiations.  The RGGI states' decision on how to move forward, which still must be finalized, is seen as a test case of states' commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the Trump administration attempts to dismantle federal climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan that was the Obama administration's plan for controlling power plant emissions.

The RGGI states—with five Republican governors and four Democratic governors—together represent the world's sixth largest economy, with $2.8 trillion in GDP.  California, where the legislature recently voted to extend its own cap-and-trade program through 2030, falls just behind in GDP, at $2.5 trillion.

The states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (Credit: Paul Horn / InsideClimate News) Click to Enlarge.
Despite the bipartisan support for the proposal announced Wednesday, Republican administrations in three states—Maine, New Hampshire and Maryland—had previously expressed concern about the costs of more stringent cuts.  In 2011 New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, withdrew his state from the coalition.
Ultimately, the RGGI states agreed to pursue one of the more ambitious proposals on the table, which calls for lowering emissions caps each year by 3 percent over the previous year.  Under the current plan, their commitment is to lower the cap by 2.5 percent a year.  Under the agreed upon proposal, power sector emissions would be 65 percent lower by 2030 than they were 2009, RGGI's inaugural year.

By allowing utilities to trade emissions credits, RGGI encourages lower-cost solutions and also generates revenue for the states, which have used the money for energy conservation and other popular programs.

"Maryland is committed to finding real bipartisan, common-sense solutions to protect our environment, combat climate change and improve our air quality," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement following the announcement Wednesday.

Environmental Groups See Pros and Cons 
Many environmental groups applauded the choice—and the model more broadly—as a workable, market-based approach in the absence of leadership at the federal level.
The RGGI group says the proposed caps will cut carbon emissions an additional 132 million tons by 2030, equivalent to taking 28 million cars off the road for one year.
Other regions across the country have seen lower carbon emissions, largely driven by low-cost natural gas.  But a study by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke University Energy Initiative found that, in the RGGI states, the primary reason for lowered emissions was the cap-and-trade market.
The member states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont—will hold a stakeholder meeting on Sept. 25 in Baltimore, where they plan to discuss further details of the proposal.

Read more at 9 Eastern States Agree to Cut Power Plant Emissions an Extra 30%

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