Environment Maine Commends Legislature for Defending the RGGI Program
Portland, Maine—The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is helping Maine meet our energy challenges by providing needed investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy – cutting pollution, curbing dependence on fossil fuels, and fostering pioneering clean energy approaches that can be adopted by other states and nationwide, according to a report released today by Environment Maine. The program’s sale of pollution credits has so far generated $26 million for Maine, which the state invests efficiency, leading to $113 million in energy savings, creating or saving nearly 1,400 jobs, and growing the gross state product by $118 million.
“This is a program that works, and it’s a real win-win for Maine’s environment and economy, since it’s both cutting pollution and saving Mainers money,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.
The report, A Program that Works, evaluates the program after more than two years in operation.
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 2008, 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 pollution and promote local clean energy.
“We applaud the Maine Legislature for its strong vote of confidence in the program,” said Figdor.
Despite widespread support across the region for the clean energy and energy efficiency benefits of RGGI, some fossil fuel industry groups, led by the well-financed Americans for Prosperity (AFP), have launched an aggressive campaign that includes highly misleading ads, among other tactics, to try to convince states to pull out of the program.
The Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee voted unanimously in May to reject an AFP-spearheaded bill (LD 793) to withdraw our state from the program. Instead, the Committee rewrote the bill to reaffirm an existing condition for Maine’s participation in the RGGI program – specifically, that there’s sufficient regional participation for the trading program to work effectively. Gov. LePage signed the revised bill into law last week.
Overall, RGGI participating states are investing 80 percent of the program’s proceeds in a variety of consumer benefit programs, including programs to improve energy efficiency, accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies, and provide energy bill payment assistance to low-income ratepayers. According to data compiled by Environment Northeast, RGGI has contributed to more than $860 million in consumer savings, 16,000 new jobs, and $2 billion in economic growth in the 10 participating states.
In Maine, approximately $10 million of the RGGI funds to date have been spent on efficiency grants for industrial businesses. By allowing Maine to take advantage of large-scale energy efficiency opportunities, RGGI is making the state’s industries more efficient and nationally competitive. Several recipients of the grants, including Twin Rivers Paper in Madawaska, Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, and Irving Forest Products in Dixfield, voiced their support for the program in a letter earlier this year, commending RGGI as an effective way to reduce their energy costs and leverage private investment.
In addition, like other investments in energy efficiency, the RGGI money helps decrease electricity rates for all consumers by reducing peak demand.
The report, A Program that Works, asserts that by strengthening RGGI, using its funds wisely, and implementing complementary policies that support its clean energy goals, the region can build on RGGI’s success.
“Strengthening this common sense program would result in even more benefits to Maine – cutting dangerous pollution, saving more money, and building our state’s future on clean energy,” concluded Figdor.
Environment Maine is a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to preserve Maine’s open spaces, protect clean air and water, and steer the state toward a clean energy future.