Washington, D.C. — As the U.S. Court of Appeals prepares to hear arguments on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan later this month, Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report showing that curbing dangerous carbon pollution can reduce the risk of global warming and benefit communities at the same time.
The report, Carbon-Cutting Success Stories, looks at how businesses, cities and institutions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are embracing clean energy as a way to create new opportunities and to save money. The success of the region’s efforts to cut power plant pollution should give the whole nation confidence as it prepares to implement the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement, ratified by China and the United States earlier in September.
The report presents seven stories, ranging from a winery to a hospital to a low-income housing project – all of which are affected by global warming and have benefited in several ways by cutting carbon pollution.
“Climate change threatens Smuttynose on a number of different levels,” said Peter Egelston, President and Co-Founder of Smuttynose Brewing Company in New Hampshire, one of the companies profiled in the report. “Our coastal headquarters means we're vulnerable to sea level rise, which all modeling shows to be true. More directly, we can't brew beer without malting quality barley and hops, two specialized agricultural products that need consistent growing conditions.”
That’s why the company chose installed new, energy-efficient brewing equipment at its new brewery, saving more than $1 million in energy costs annually and preventing carbon pollution equivalent to that would be produced by driving a car for almost 13 million miles.
The move was supported in part by revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first multi-state limit on carbon pollution from power plants. The program is a strong example of how to reduce global warming pollution, because it requires polluters to pay and generates money for clean energy programs. As states across the country implement the Clean Power Plan, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provides strong evidence that cutting carbon pollution provides a wide range of benefits.
“I know Smuttynose can't stop climate change single handedly, it takes a lot of businesses all moving in that direction,” said Egelston. “That's why I support RGGI incentives. They made a difference in my decision-making for our LEED Gold-certified brewery and they'll continue to have that effect for others if our elected officials continue to support greenhouse gas reductions.”
The report also profiles the towns of Swampscott and Wenham in Massachusetts, which upgraded street lighting to efficient LEDs. The project is saving the towns more than $100,000 per year, and preventing as much carbon pollution as contained in 28,000 gallons of gasoline.
“Thanks to Massachusetts' Green Communities program, funded through the Regional Greenhouse Initiative, we've been able to focus on making on older public facilities more efficient and reduce operating costs for our tax-paying residents,” said Peter Kane, Director of Community Development for the town of Swampscott.
Additionally, the report looks at two large-scale clean energy facilities built to meet increasing demand for zero emission power, including SolarCity’s “GigaFactory” in Buffalo, New York. This facility will become the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere when it comes online in 2017, and will create an expected 3,000 jobs in Buffalo over the next decade.
“We can cut carbon pollution and build a clean energy economy – it’s a win-win,” said Travis Madsen, State Climate Campaign Director for Environment America and co-author of the report. “We’re proving it every day.”
“The report clearly shows that the first decade of RGGI has led to cost-effective strategies to reduce carbon emissions from power plants,” said Dr. Jonathan Levy, Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health, noting that the benefits of reducing pollution also include lives saved and diseases prevented. “Continued investments in clean energy will provide additional public health benefits.”
Participating states are currently undertaking a review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and are expected to propose changes to the program in the coming months to align it with their economy-wide climate goals, with the Clean Power Plan, and with the Paris Climate Agreement. Advocates are calling for the states to double the benefits of the program by doubling its pollution reduction goals through 2030. Massachusetts, led by Governor Charlie Baker, signaled support for doubling the strength of the program at the end of August.
"The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the singlemost successful tool in our arsenal to combat climate change,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“Now it’s time for Governor Cuomo of New York, Governor Malloy of Connecticut, and the other governors from across the region to show that they are serious about meeting their states’ goals for cutting pollution and to double down on our progress,” concluded Environment America’s Madsen. “Furthermore, states across the nation should look closely at what the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are achieving, and scale up their efforts to cut dangerous carbon pollution.”
Environment America Research & Policy Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.