Northeast Emissions Plan Helps Maryland Shift to Clean Energy and Avoid Fossil Fuel Pollution

Environment Maryland

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is helping Maryland 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, according to a report released today by Environment Maryland.  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 has led to more than $38 million in clean energy investments leading to more than $105 million in energy savings and contributing $225 growth in economic activity in Maryland.

“RGGI has been a key part of Maryland’s plan to reduce pollution and move us toward clean energy. We look forward to working with our state’s leaders to strengthen and improve the program for a cleaner, more secure energy future in Maryland,” said Tommy Landers, Environment Maryland Campaign Director.

“Maryland has become a national leader in combating the global climate change crisis. 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,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

State leaders in ten northeast states from Delaware to Maine took a decisive step on clean energy when they created RGGI to limit carbon pollution from power plants. Full implementation of the program began in 2009, making it 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.  

“RGGI programs raise awareness of what is possible in the realm of energy efficiency. We can affordably build homes that use a tenth of the energy used by most of today’s homes.  The only question is: why would we do anything else?  Locally, regionally, and nationally we can be doing so much more when it comes to efficiency and clean energy to benefit our economy, our environment, and public health.  Smart, forward-thinking investments in programs like RGGI will help drive an economic renaissance and put us on the path of growth, innovation and prosperity,” said Michael Hindle, Acting Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Passive House Alliance as well as Principal, Owner, and Certified Passive House Consultant with INDRAlogic Architecture and Chesapeake Passive House.

Despite widespread support for the clean energy and energy efficiency benefits of RGGI, some industry groups, led by the well-financed Americans for Prosperity, have launched an aggressive campaign including highly misleading ads in an effort to convince these states to pull out of the program.

Overall, RGGI participating states are investing 80 percent of proceeds in a variety of consumer benefit programs, including programs to improve energy efficiency, to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies, and to provide energy bill payment assistance to low-income ratepayers. According to data compiled by ENE-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 ten participating states.

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