Northeast states finalize new power plant rules to reduce global warming pollution

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Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston – Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, including Massachusetts, finalized new rules today to cut power plant pollution by at least two-thirds below 2005 levels by 2030. The action makes the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country — the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — even better.

This program, which first took effect in 2009, limits dangerous pollution from power plants in Massachusetts and across the region, helping to slow the warming of our planet and clean up our air. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, issued the following statement:

“People want less pollution and more clean energy. This new rule will give it to them.

“This multi-state collaboration proves that we can work together across party lines to cut pollution, clean our air and protect our climate. Especially in an era where politicians in Washington, D.C. seem to be unable to work together on almost anything, this decision is a triumph for bipartisanship and for common sense. Our region has a long history of working to reduce air pollution, setting a strong example for the rest of the country. This decision continues that tradition. 

“At the same time, we know that this decision by itself is not nearly enough to stop climate change. With every day, it becomes even more clear that the impacts of global warming are accelerating. 2016 was hotter than any previous year in human history, and the Northeast is warming faster than any other region in the United States except for Alaska.

“We need to take further action to clean up power plants – and also our transportation system, our buildings and our industries. We should also do more to encourage action in additional states. The prospect of New Jersey and Virginia joining our regional coalition to clean up carbon pollution in 2018 is a welcome one — but ultimately, we’re going to need every state and the federal government to work together to eliminate pollution.

“We look forward to working with Massachusetts and its neighbors to implement these new rules, and to take further steps to slash dangerous global warming pollution and accelerate clean energy development. We have the tools we need to protect our health, preserve our climate and secure our future. Let’s use them.”

Today’s decision follows a multi-year review of the program with broad stakeholder input, including more than 500 leaders calling for greater ambition. The action is particularly noteworthy in light of the ongoing efforts of the Trump administration to reverse prior administrations’ actions to fight climate change, including the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Since 2005, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has helped cut power plant pollution in half, while generating $2.7 billion for states to invest in clean energy, energy efficiency and consumer benefit programs.

The new rules will cut pollution by at least another 30 percent across the nine-state region from 2020 to 2030. If reducing pollution turns out to be easier and cheaper than anticipated, the limit on pollution will automatically grow tighter, reinforcing progress. The new rules exceed what would have been required under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan by about a third.

The states participating in RGGI anticipate that the program will raise on the order of $7.5 billion for investment in clean energy programs from 2018 through 2030 — with an estimated $1.2 billion for Massachusetts over the next 12 years. 

Additional quotes:

“Holyoke is proud to be a clean energy leader, but we can’t do it alone — we need support on the state and regional level,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “A stronger RGGI will help communities like Holyoke invest more in energy efficiency and clean energy, while protecting ourselves and future generations from the harmful impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Funding from RGGI has helped communities across Massachusetts reduce their energy consumption and save money through the Green Communities program,” said Peter Kane, Director of Community Development for the Town of Swampscott. “In Swampscott, we used Green Communities funding to replace our streetlights with LEDs, a project that is expected to save the town more than $80,000 per year in reduced energy costs. I’m encouraged to see RGGI become stronger, and I hope state officials will do even more to accelerate the growth of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.