Northeast States Can Make Huge Difference in Tackling Climate-Altering Pollution

Massachusetts urged to follow through on commitment to reduce power plant emissions

Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center

Ten Northeast States, from Maryland to Maine, are responsible for as much climate-altering carbon pollution as all but nine nations, according to a report released today by Environment Massachusetts. In 2010, the region emitted 533 million metric tons of carbon pollution, more than the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil and France.

“In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene, the Northeast must double-down on its commitment to lead our country in reducing the pollution that’s warming the planet and changing our climate,” said Danielle Falzon of Environment Massachusetts.

The report: A Double Success: Tackling Global Warming While Growing the Economy with an Improved Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative also shows that lowering global warming emissions is consistent with a growing economy.  Between 2000 and 2010, the economies of the ten Northeast states grew twice as fast per capita as other states while cutting carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent faster per capita. In Massachusetts, carbon intensity was reduced by 22% while GDP increased 10%, both 5% better than the national average. Recent analyses have also shown RGGI has produced a $1.6 billion economic boost to the region through 2011, and that strengthening RGGI could produce an additional $8 billion in economic benefits. 

“By using RGGI to accelerate investments in energy efficiency, the Northeast states have made RGGI into a winner for businesses and consumers in the Northeast,” states NEEP Public Policy Director Jim O’Reilly. “This report shows that RGGI will continue to be a critical tool for states to manage their energy use and maintain our competitive advantage as we emerge from the economic downturn.”

 “By promoting a shift to clean energy and supporting programs to save energy, RGGI helps keeps energy dollars in our local economy and creates market-based incentives for companies to create innovative energy efficiency solutions for homes and businesses,” added Pasi Miettinen, CEO of Sagewell, Inc. “And it does all this while reducing the risk of costs associated with changes in our climate.”

Environment Massachusetts’s report, points out that Massachusetts, and the rest of the world, are in a race against time, citing studies showing that 100-year coastal floods are now predicted to occur every 15 to 35 years. The changing climate threatens 174,000 Massachusetts residents living in coastal flood zones, and could lead to $9 billion in storm-related economic losses by mid-century.

“The investments in energy efficiency and cleaner sources of energy can have long-term health benefits related to climate change, but also near-term health benefits related to improved air quality,” said Jon Levy, Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health. “We should keep in mind the array of health and ecological benefits as Massachusetts continues to make progress in reducing emissions.” 

“Reducing emissions from power plants has a direct positive impact on the health of our communities, translating into less asthma, less respiratory disease and less allergies,” stated Gary Cohen, President and Founder of Health Care Without Harm. “Addressing climate change through RGGI and similar policy vehicles will help protect our families from climate-related diseases and other health impacts of extreme weather events.”

All 10 states were part of the original Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering agreement to cap carbon pollution from power plants. In February, Massachusetts and 8 other states announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions that would lead to a 20 percent reduction over the next decade.  States are now revising their rules in order to carry out the agreement.

Environment Massachusetts urged the state to follow through on its commitment to strengthen RGGI by quickly adopting strong rules to lower emissions from power plants.  But, also urged taking more action including:        

  • Northeast states should adopt limits on global warming pollution that go beyond the electricity sector, including transportation and heating fuels. This could include expanding RGGI to other sectors.
  • Massachusetts must implement our law with binding targets for reducing global warming pollution.
  • More states should join RGGI.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should move forward on limiting global warming pollution from existing power plants in all states.

“Strengthening programs such as RGGI is a double success for the Northeast,” said Danielle Falzon. “We can reduce the impacts of global warming while powering our clean energy economy.”


Environment Massachusetts is a statewide, citizen-based, environmental advocacy organization working toward a cleaner, greener, healthier future.