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  • Tax Day marks 100 days of inaction on Climate Change in Congress - with RGGI Maine positioned well

    “Our health and livelihoods are being put on the line for dirty polluter profits,” said Morgan Rogers, Campaigns Director of Environment Maine at an event with Environment Maine and Maine Conservation Alliance highlighting the inaction of Congress on climate change in Portland, Maine. Photo by Alex Cornell du Houx

     by Ramona du Houx

    Environment Maine and Maine Conservation Alliance marked 100 days of inaction on climate change in Congress.

    Stationed outside the Post Office, as Mainers mailed out their taxes before the April 15th deadline, the groups delivered two giant checks to fossil fuel industries, and their allies in Congress, representing the enormous tax breaks that are granted to oil and gas corporations.

    These unnecessary tax breaks serve only to increase the profits of large corporations that take advantage of them. Some of these laws have been on the books from the 1800’s when the oil industry and coal industries were in their infancy. Now, theses corporations don’t need government subsidies but small businesses, and working people do.

     April 15th is not only Tax Day, it marks a significant legislative benchmark: 100 days of the Senator Mitch McConnell-led Senate.

    “As Mainers head to the Post Office to pay their taxes, fossil fuel industries are being granted enormous tax breaks. At the same time, Congress is doing the polluters’ dirty work by attempting to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal. In fact, nothing has been done to act on climate change in the last 100 days. Our health and livelihoods are being put on the line for dirty polluter profits,” said Morgan Rogers, Campaigns Director of Environment Maine.

     The groups delivered two checks: the first, made out for $721 million from the fossil fuel industry to their allies in Congress, representing the amount they spent this past year’s election cycle. The second was written out the fossil fuel industries for $37.5 billion, representing the amount the oil and gas industries receive in tax breaks and subsidies each year.

     "The federal government subsidy for oil, coal and gas is just a baseline number: the $37.5 billion does not include the price of environmental externalities, such as air pollution and asthma, which would bring the total cost to over $500 billion. Mainers are paying to support an industry that exacerbates climate change and endangers our health," said Melissa Mann, Advocacy Coordinator for the Maine Conservation Alliance. (photo to the right by Alex Cornell du Houx)

    Maine is particularly well positioned for these changes because of its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, since 2009. The cap-n-trade initiative is the first regional program in the United States to limit global warming pollution from power plants, sell permits to emit carbon, and invest the revenues in energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives. RGGI started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci received an unanimous vote from the legislature supporting his RGGI law. All nine states participating in RGGI have used the carbon savings to lower their carbon footprint in similar ways.

    RGGI has helped to reduce regional global warming pollution by more than 30 percent. At the same time, it has added more than $2.3 billion in economic value to participating states. And it has funded energy-efficiency measures that will save residential, commercial and industrial electricity customers more than $1 billion on their energy bills.

    In the first three years of this program, Maine generated $80 million in reduced electric bills for Maine businesses and people, which added $92 million to Maine’s economy, according to Efficiency Maine Trust.

    Maine will have to change little in order to comply with the new standards and could become a leader on the Clean Power Plan.

    Both Maine U.S. Senators King and Collins, as well as U.S. Representative Pingree have supported shifting away from paying out huge subsidies to oil every time the vote comes up in Congress. 

    SAPPI - a paper company in Skhowegan, Maine has cut back on polution somewhat since RGGI.

    Photo by Ramona du Houx

    There is stong public support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal as poll after poll show supermajorities in favor of climate action.  

     Climate change continues to emerge as a concern for most Americans with 2014 exit polling from the New York Times showing nearly 6 out of 10 voters believe it is an “important issue.” A 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 67 percent of Americans support the carbon regulations proposed by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    The EPA is in the process of finalizing standards to limit carbon pollution form dirty power plants. As proposed, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will result in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by approximately 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 nationwide. Each state has broad flexibility to create plans to best achieve the emission reduction targets.

    As Senator McConnell cynically and irresponsibly advises states to ignore the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the irony is that states are willing, well positioned, and with the necessary flexibility to comply withcarbon pollution limits in a tailored way that not only meets their needs, but positions them to be more competitive economically.

    Both Maine U.S. Senators King and Collins, as well as U.S. Representative Pingree have supported shifting away from paying out huge subsidies to oil every time the vote comes up in Congress.