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New RGGI plan calls for 30% cut in utility carbon emissions by 2030

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

August 23. 2017 9:41PM


The nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced a set of proposals Wednesday for how the so-called “cap and trade” program could continue after 2020, when the current rules expire.

The new plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by utilities from 2020 to 2030.

The cap currently in place calls for 2.5 percent reductions in emissions each year from 2015 to 2020, or 12.5 percent over the five-year period.

The nine states in the RGGI program — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — began a review of the program in July with an eye toward implementing changes by 2019.

The extension of the program under the proposed terms would have to be approved by each participating state.

RGGI allows electric utilities to buy and sell carbon “allowances,” that let them emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The allowances are distributed through quarterly auctions, with the proceeds going to participating states.

Programs funded through RGGI auction proceeds include energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, greenhouse-gas abatement and direct-bill assistance.

Since 2008, Rhode Island, for example, has invested millions of dollars in revenue from RGGI in programs like energy-efficient public-sector buildings, adoption of LED streetlights and financial incentives for consumer efficiency.

New Hampshire, since 2013, has redirected most of the money raised through the program to lower prices on consumer electric bills.

The Granite State’s participation in RGGI has often been controversial at the State House, where some Republicans over the years have tried to get the state out of the program.

The RGGI states now will seek stakeholder comment on the draft in a public meeting scheduled for Sept. 25 in Baltimore.

Each state eventually will have to apply its own legislative and regulatory processes to implement the changes to the carbon-trading program, which likely will set the stage for another debate about the future of RGGI in New Hampshire.

Robert Scott, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, said the proposed changes were arrived at “in the spirit of consensus and compromise.”

“Each RGGI state is doing what makes best sense for them and the region, and together the RGGI states are able to achieve emissions reductions in a way that’s cost-effective and beneficial to consumers in the region,” he said.

Environmental groups like the Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club applauded the announcement.

“With the Trump Administration making every effort to turn back the clock on environmental progress, it falls to state and regional collaboration to lead the way in protecting public health and defending clean air and water,” said CLF attorney Phelps Turner.

During the review process, the website Inside Climate News reported that Republican governors or their representatives from Maine, New Hampshire and Maryland expressed concerns over the potential costs of deeper emissions cuts.

“If the rest of the RGGI states push for deeper cuts, any of these three could decide to follow in the steps of New Jersey’s GOP governor, Chris Christie, who withdrew his state from RGGI in 2011,” the website reported.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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