Regional Emissions Plan Helps Northeast States Shift to Clean Energy and Cut Pollution

Media Contacts
Nathan Willcox

Environment America Research & Policy Center

Washington, DC — The Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is helping states from Maryland to Maine meet their energy challenges by providing investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, cutting pollution and curbing dependence on fossil fuels, according to a report released today by Environment America.  According to the report, “A Program that Works: How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is Helping the Northeast Shift to Clean Energy and Reduce Pollution from Fossil Fuels,” the program had already led to nearly $450 million in clean energy These investments led to over $1 billion in energy savings and contributing $2.6 billion to economic growth in the region, as of the end of May 2011.

“Maryland has become a national leader in combating the global climate change crisis, “said Governor O’Malley.  “Our efforts to implement RGGI have helped us avoid dangerous carbon dioxide emissions and take steps toward creating a cleaner, more sustainable state. For our prosperity, and for our current and future generations, we must take action on climate change now – not later.” 

State leaders in 10 Northeast States from Delaware to Maine took a decisive step on clean energy when they created RGGI to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The program took full effect in 2009, becoming the first cap on global warming pollution implemented anywhere in the United States. Two and a half years later, RGGI is successfully sparking investments in clean energy solutions in the region and demonstrating the workability of a program that requires polluters to pay for the right to emit carbon pollution and that invests the money in measures that will reduce emissions and promote local clean energy initiatives.   

“RGGI represents a smart, common sense approach to dealing with our environment and issues of clean energy,” said New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney.  “It has wide-spread support and its principles are largely endorsed by the people of New Jersey.  Removing New Jersey from RGGI can only cause harm to our state’s environment.  I urge the governor to reconsider his position.  Protecting our environment is not just a matter of dollars and cents.  It’s about common sense.  It’s about leaving a clean, healthy, stable environment to our children and our grandchildren.  Unfortunately, removing ourselves from RGGI will make it that much harder to attain that goal.”

Despite widespread support for the program and the indisputable energy and environmental benefits that RGGI provides the states, fossil fuel interests—led by the Koch Industries-financed Americans for Prosperity—, cinhave launched an aggressive campaign with misleading paid ads to convince states to pull out of the program.  

Last month, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie announced his intention to end New Jersey’s participation in the program.   Governor Christie’s push for NJ to pull out of RGGI runs counter to actions in other states where decision-makers have rejected efforts by American for Prosperity and their allies to roll back the 10 state program.  Similarly, the legislative leadership in New Jersey is committed to keeping New Jersey in the program.  

“State leaders, including Governor Christie, know that RGGI has been an important element of the region’s efforts to promote clean energy and cut pollution,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America, who was part of the stakeholder group that helped shape the program.  “Thoughtful people are seeing through the misleading information from out-of-state fossil fuel interests and rejecting  efforts to scuttle this important program.”   

The report asserts that by maintaining and improving RGGI, using its funds wisely, and implementing complementary policies that support its clean energy goals, RGGI states can build on the program’s success and maintain their leadership in the march towards clean energy. Specifically, the RGGI states should:

  • Strengthen RGGI’s cap on carbon emissions. . A stronger cap will allow RGGI to function better as an incentive to move to cleaner energy sources and improve the states’ ability to make clean energy investments.  
  • Invest all RGGI funds in clean energy programs.  Investing in energy efficiency and clean energy measures will provide energy bill relief to customers large and small and make achieving the environmental goals of the program easier. 
  • Consider expanding RGGI to include additional states. RGGI has proven itself as a framework for capping pollution and funding clean energy. One of the best ways to build on that success would be to bring additional states on board with the effort. RGGI has inspired the creation of similar initiatives in other parts of the country.

“We are counting on New Jersey policy makers to recognize that the citizens of New Jersey want to move forward, not backward, on clean energy,” said Matt Elliott.  “And, like in other states, when they look at the facts, instead of the misinformation being spewed by a small handful of fossil fuel interests, they will see the environmental and economic benefits and conclude that staying in RGGI is in the best interest of New Jersey.” 

“RGGI has been a key part of the region’s plan to reduce pollution and move toward clean energy,” said Nathan Willcox, Federal Global Warming Program Director for Environment America. “We look forward to working with state leaders to strengthen and improve the program for a cleaner, more secure energy future and to show nation and the world that a program like this can work.”