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RGGI's ruse: It's not for the environment

In a Sept. 19 gubernatorial debate, Maggie Hassan was asked about her support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). "I was proud to be a sponsor of that tax - eh - the energy efficiency program because it has saved businesses millions and millions of dollars and created over 400 jobs," Hassan said. Oops.

Hassan's spokesman said later that she did not think RGGI was a tax, but an energy efficiency program. That's a shame, because she was right the first time, it is effectively a tax - which its supporters want to increase.

RGGI caps carbon emissions from power plants in the 9 states, including New Hampshire, that have signed onto the agreement. Energy companies can exceed those caps by buying emissions credits, which are sold on an open market. Last Thursday RGGI officials, including the two New Hampshire representatives, announced that they want to cut the allowable carbon emissions under the agreement by 45 percent by 2014. They say the reduction will bring cleaner air.

Yet there is a surplus of RGGI credits on the market. RGGI states are not producing enough power to reach the current emissions cap, so demand for the credits is low. Instead of declaring success (carbon emissions under RGGI were 30 percent lower in 2011 than in 2005), RGGI wants to lower the cap to stimulate demand for emissions credits. Why would it want to do that? For the money.

RGGI states pocket money from the sale of the credits. The estimated increase in RGGI revenue from the 45 percent reduction in allowable emissions is $2.2 billion. That is money taken from electricity ratepayers and delivered to politicians, who distribute it allegedly on behalf of the people from whom it was taken. In other words, it is a tax.

Rather than participate in this scam, New Hampshire should withdraw and save its ratepayers the unnecessary expense of giving politicians a few extra billion to play with.

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