Environmentalists React To Regional Proposal To Cut Carbon Emissions

Aug 25, 2017

Local environmental groups are pleased with a new proposal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce the amount of carbon emissions in New England, but some think the plan should be more ambitious.

Nine states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, finished their latest review of RGGI, a program that limits the amount of carbon pollution emitted by power plants in participating states. 

RGGI states announced a proposal Wednesday to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, relative to 2020 emission levels. Starting in 2021, the states will cap carbon emissions at about 75 million tons a year. That cap will decrease three percent every year for the next decade. 

Peter Shattuck, director of the clean energy initiative for Acadia Center, said this proposal is what climate leadership looks like.

"(Rhode Island) Governor Raimondo and other governors have really stepped up to fill the void of the Trump administration’s misguided and irresponsible decision to roll back all our major climate policies (and) to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement," Shattuck said. 

The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island released a statement in support of the new plan.

"This is the most effective and practical path toward mitigating effects of climate change for this region, and it is both timely and urgently needed,” John Torgan, state director for the conservancy, said.

Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, agreed that the proposal is a significant climate victory, but said the pollution reduction goals could be stronger. 

"What we are advocating for is a 50 percent cut by 2030, which would put us on a more rapid path to increase renewable energy like solar and wind," Hellerstein said. 

Hellerstein added the RGGI program requires power plant companies to buy permits for their emissions, and states use that money to invest into energy efficiency, such as funding rebates for energy-efficient appliances and weatherization of homes. He said a more ambitious cap could allow states to invest even more into green initiatives.

Since RGGI’s start in 2009, carbon pollution in participating states has gone down more than 40 percent. 

If the proposal is passed, by 2030, at least 132 million more tons of carbon pollution will be avoided, the equivalent of one-year's worth of pollution from more than 25 million cars, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

From 2008 to 2015, RGGI states have seen 3.6 percent more economic growth than non-RGGI states and electricity prices have gone down 3.4 percent regionally, according to a report by Acadia Center.

RGGI states will hold a public meeting for the proposal September 25 in Baltimore, Maryland to hear from stakeholders. 

The 2017 carbon emissions cap is 84.3 million tons a year and declines 2.5 percent until 2020.