Maine, as part of RGGI, becomes a bipartisan model for curbing carbon pollution regionally
By Ramona du Houx
Environment Maine Research & Policy Center released a new report delcaring the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s best regional climate program that has dramatically cut carbon pollution. The report, Cooler Together: The Benefits of Cooperative Action Against Global Warming in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Beyond, concludes that the newly strengthened program has the potential to provide$7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reductions over the next 13 years.
On February 28,2018 a bill passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature became law, reauthorizing Maine to remain part of the RGGI through 2030, and ensuring deeper pollution cuts from power plants.
Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $91,909,096.27 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration in 2007.
“Maine is showing that we can work together across party lines to cut carbon pollution, clean our air, and protect our climate, in sharp contrast to the climate denial at the federal level, ” said Andrea McGimsey, Sr. Director of Global Warming Solutions with Environment Maine.
The report celebrates the region’s leadership in implementing effective solutions to climate change. Building on the progress of the program’s first decade, the report finds that a stronger Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with more participating states would:
- Cut carbon pollution from power plants in the Northeast to less than a third of their 2005 levels by 2030 – a dramatic reduction in emissions that positions the region for meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
- Prevent a further 125 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and provide $7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction projects over the next 13 years, if funding trends continue on historic patterns.
“To address global warming, we need to set strong limits on pollution, invest in clean energy, and build widespread, bipartisan support for bold action," said Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, which co-authored the report. "This program hits all those marks, and shows that change is possible."
Nine states have participated since the program’s beginning: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Five of the states are led by Republican governors and four by Democratic governors. In late January 2018, New Jersey announced it would rejoin RGGI. Cooler Together estimates that by joining the program now, both New Jersey and Virginia could generate as much as $4.2 billion in revenue by 2030 that could speed their transition to clean energy, while reducing as much as 88 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions cumulatively.
Other states, especially those in the Climate Alliance, can look to the RGGI program as an effective model of climate action. Every state can adopt the strategies that have made the program successful: capping carbon pollution, putting a price on carbon emissions, and reinvesting revenue in the clean energy transition.
The report reviewed the impressive benefits RGGI has achieved for Maine since it was created in 2005. Key benefits include:
- Contributing to cutting the region’s carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants in half since 2005, according to an analysis by Natural Resources Defense Council, with plans to cut emissions to two-thirds of 2005 levels by 2030;
- Saving consumers more than $773 million on their energy bills;
- And $3 billion in net economic benefits, including the creation of more than 30,000 jobs in the region.
“We congratulate the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states for their climate leadership,” said McGimsey. “The success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative shows that bipartisan action on climate change is possible and can lead to dramatic progress and significant benefits.”