New Hampshire Urged to Strengthen Cap on Climate-Altering Carbon Pollution

Environment New Hampshire

CONCORD—Today, Environment New Hampshire joined other environmental, public health and business organizations in urging state officials to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program designed to limit climate-altering pollution from power plants. At a public hearing on proposed amendments to the program, organizations including ENE (Environment Northeast) and Conservation Law Foundation highlighted the success of the program to date and the need for continued action.

“We have an obligation to protect our children and future generations from the impacts of global warming,” said Travis Madsen, Senior Program Manager at Environment New Hampshire. “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a critical part of that effort. We commend New Hampshire for moving forward with proposed improvements to the program.”

New Hampshire is one of 10 states that created the original Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering agreement to cap carbon pollution from power plants. In February, New Hampshire and 8 other states announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions and reduce the carbon pollution limit 15 percent by 2020. States are now revising their rules in order to carry out the agreement.
For more information about the case for improving RGGI, see the Environment New Hampshire report: A Double Success: Tackling Global Warming While Growing the Economy with an Improved Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

In calling for a strengthened limit on carbon emissions, Madsen cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent 5th assessment report, which definitively concluded that global warming is happening now, that it is caused by human activity and that impacts will continue to accelerate without coordinated action to rapidly reduce emissions of greenhouse gas pollution. Impacts of climate change in New Hampshire already include a doubling of the frequency of extreme rainstorms since 1950, increasing the risk of flooding – such as the floods that accompanied hurricane Irene in 2011.

RGGI has proven effective as a tool to directly reduce power plant emissions of climate-altering pollution. Across the region, emissions are down by about a third since 2005. Strengthening the program as proposed would additionally prevent as much pollution as would be emitted by 16 million cars through 2020.

RGGI has also succeeded by providing revenue to accelerate the development of clean energy resources including wind, solar and energy efficiency. Clean energy investments driven by RGGI through 2011 are expected to reduce global warming pollution by 12 million tons over their lifetimes, the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road for a year. Strengthening the emissions cap as proposed would more than double the amount of resources available to states through RGGI to invest in clean energy measures.

“RGGI is helping states from Maine to Maryland reduce carbon pollution and make investments in clean energy,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Market Initiatives for ENE (Environment Northeast). “Strengthening the program as proposed will help speed our transition away from fossil fuels.”

At the same time, RGGI has been a boon to the economies of participating states. In its first two and a half years of operation, RGGI boosted net economic output by $1.6 billion and created 16,000 jobs, including $17 million in economic benefits and 450 jobs in New Hampshire. Strengthening the program as proposed would create more than $8 billion in additional economic benefits through the decade, including energy bill savings, and add more than 120,000 job-years of employment across the region.

“Two out of every three dollars raised in RGGI compliance auctions through 2011 were invested in programs to improve the energy efficiency of the Northeast’s economy,” said Josh Craft of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. “Those investments—totaling more than $400 million—will leverage $1.1 billion in consumer energy savings over their lifetimes. Everyone in New Hampshire and across the region benefits.”

At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first national standards limiting carbon pollution from new power plants, with rules for existing power plants expected by next June. New Hampshire’s RGGI program provides a strong example for how states can successfully control carbon pollution – just as they have successfully reduced emissions of arsenic, lead, soot and other types of power plant pollution.

“We commend Governor Hassan, Commissioner Burack of the Department of Environmental Services, and the state legislature for moving forward with improvements to RGGI,” said Madsen. “New Hampshire leaders, including Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, should support similar action at the federal level to help ensure that we do what it takes to reduce the impact of global warming.”

For more information contact:
Travis Madsen, Environment NH: 720-937-2609
Peter Shattuck, ENE: (857) 636-2502

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