Tour and new report highlights benefits of reducing power plant pollution

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston, MA – Climate protection advocates, academics, and health care and business leaders toured energy renovations at the Boston Public Library and the Boston Medical Center as Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center released a new report showing that Governor Baker could double the benefits of reducing power plant pollution.
The report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, concludes that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would cut dangerous global warming pollution from power plants in half by 2030 and generate $3 billion to invest in clean energy – enough to weatherize 1.2 million homes, or every home in Middlesex, Suffolk, Worcester, and Essex Counties.

“Officials in Governor Charlie Baker’s administration have supported strengthening RGGI, and we’re counting on them to follow through,” said Meghan Hassett, Campaign Organizer with Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “We can’t wait for the federal government to clean up power plant pollution. It’s up to Massachusetts to lead the region towards a clean energy future.”

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 across the region, helping to slow the warming of our planet. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute. That revenue – $436 million to date in Massachusetts—has funded energy efficiency and clean energy projects around the state.

“Boston Medical Center’s work to minimize our impact on the environment is a top priority,” said Kate Walsh, President and CEO. “Clean air and a stable climate are critical to the health of the communities we serve and to our vision to make Boston the healthiest urban population in the world by 2030. We are grateful for our partnership with the state, which has been key.”

Last August, Baker administration officials said that they support doubling the rate at which power plant emissions decline under RGGI, from 2.5 percent per year to 5 percent per year. Since then, however, the administration has been silent on the question of how strong the emissions cuts should be. Officials in other states are pushing for less ambitious reductions, between 2.5 and 3.5 percent per year. 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.

“Cutting pollution is good health prevention; it gives everyone cleaner air to breathe and reduces cardiopulmonary illnesses, including asthma.  RGGI saves money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and helps Boston Medical Center and other hospitals control healthcare costs,” said Bill Ravanesi, Senior Director of the Health Care Green Building and Energy Program at Health Care Without Harm.

By capping pollution and by helping citizens, businesses, hospitals, schools and local governments to deploy clean energy measures like the new energy management system at the Boston Public Library, RGGI has created significant benefits here in Massachusetts, including:

  • It has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants by 61%. That is the equivalent of retiring 5 coal-fired power plants.
  • It has helped to clean our air, preventing 900 asthma attacks over its first six years in operation.

“RGGI helps fund programs such as Mass Save, which enabled Saunders Hotel Group to make several major carbon reduction investments. One of these was a Co-Gen power system at our Comfort Inn & Suites Boston/Airport, which significantly reduced our carbon emissions,” said Tedd Saunders, CEO. “That incremental funding shortened the return on investment and enabled company leadership to say yes to this large capital project. That kind of ripple effect is happening around the region because of RGGI and needs to be continued and expanded.”

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 Massachusetts invest $650 million more in clean energy.*

“2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet, and Massachusetts is on the front lines of climate change,” said Robert Master MD, Founder of Commonwealth Care Alliance. “Massachusetts led the nation in achieving the goal of health care justice, and now we can lead once again in achieving the goal of climate justice. That is why strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is so important.”

Last month, more than 500 organizations, academics, health professionals, businesses, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast called on Governor Baker 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 BU School of Public Health Professor Jonathan Levy. “We need Governor Baker 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.”

“Our health and our climate can’t wait,” said Hassett. “Now is the time for Governor Baker to follow through on his pledge to strengthen regional limits on pollution.”

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