Governor Hogan could double the benefits of reducing power plant pollution

Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center

As the federal government attempts to roll back programs that limit air pollution, seen most recently when yesterday Trump signed an executive order to reverse many Obama-era climate efforts such as the Clean Power Plan, Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center released a new report showing that Governor Hogan could accelerate progress in reducing pollution. The report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, concludes that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would cut dangerous global warming pollution from power plants in half by 2030 and generate more than $4 billion to invest in clean energy – enough to weatherize 1.6 million homes, or 2 out of 3 homes in Maryland.

“Right now, Governor Hogan is our best hope for action to protect the climate,” said Morgan Folger, Climate Campaign Organizer. “He should act quickly. We can’t count on the federal government, so it is up to Maryland to lead the region, the nation and even the world towards a clean energy future. We can all benefit from less pollution and more clean energy.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country. This program limits dangerous pollution from power plants in Maryland and across the region – helping to slow the warming of our planet. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

The report, co-authored by Frontier Group, illustrates the opportunity before the governor. It finds that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (compared to simply keeping the program on its current trajectory) would:

  • Avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over a decade, the equivalent of making more than 1 million homes run entirely on solar power.

  • Help Maryland invest $900 million more in clean energy.*

Nathan Hultman, Director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland said, “Trump’s actions this week to roll back health and environmental protections call for a bold response from states. A strengthened RGGI will ensure continued progress in our states’ economies, improvements in the health of our citizens, and steady movement toward the energy jobs of the future. This report lays out an ambitious and achievable roadmap to achieve these goals through a doubling the strength of RGGI.”

The report also reviewed the impressive benefits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has achieved for Maryland since it was created in 2005. Key findings include:

  • It has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants by 47%. That is the equivalent of retiring 4.4 coal-fired power plants. On average, power plant pollution in the region has been falling by almost 5 percent per year. In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.
  • It has helped make Maryland much more energy efficient. Our electricity use is down by 10% percent since 2005, even as our economy grew by 12.9%.

“The cost of solar panels has dropped 80 percent over the past 5 years. For every qualifying county, municipality and business in Maryland, the financial benefits of switching to solar generated electricity is undeniable,” said Dennis Satnick of RER Energy Group.

“As one of the most vulnerable states to climate change, Maryland needs to continue to be a leader in climate change policy,” said Karla Raettig, Executive Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a program that is proven to work and as a state we should continue to invest and expand the program.”

In February, more than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast called on Governor Hogan and other regional governors to double the strength of the program and close several loopholes.

“As good as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is, we can make it better,” said Morgan Folger. “We need Governor Hogan and governors across the region to accelerate our progress in the fight against global warming, and magnify the important benefits that come from reducing pollution.”

* This report was updated in May 2017 to strengthen its conclusions, as described in footnote 62 on page 24.