Countdown to Issue Improvements to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Five Months
Environment New York
Fifty-seven New York-based groups and elected officials yesterday delivered a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling on him to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (nicknamed “RGGI”), the precedent-setting multi-state effort to reduce climate pollution from power plants. The signatories, which represent the business, consumer, energy, environment and health communities, were joined by more than 250 regional, national and other state groups in the RGGI region signaling their support for the nation’s first enforceable effort to cut the pollution that is changing our climate. With record high temperatures and droughts plaguing much of the nation, the impacts of climate change are becoming more prevalent. It is clear that we have no time to waste; we must strengthen RGGI now.
The states participating in RGGI are currently conducting a comprehensive review of how RGGI can better meet its environmental goals. Based on their evaluation, which is due at the end of this year, the organizations are calling for the following improvements:
Reducing the number of “permits to pollute.” For each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit, power plants are required to hold a RGGI permit. But there are too many tradable permits in the hands of polluters. If RGGI is to meet its goals for reducing climate pollution, the program must stop the flood of excess permits.
Ensuring RGGI monies stay “clean” by investing in clean energy options. Revenues from RGGI auctions should continue to be invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that help homeowners save money on their utility bills while reducing the state’s share of the pollution that is changing our climate, not redirected to projects without consumer or environmental benefit.
Preventing loopholes that undermine the effectiveness of RGGI. For example, RGGI offset projects—i.e., alternative compliance options outside the RGGI-regulated electric power generation sector, such as the capture and destruction of methane from landfills, that “cancel out” a company’s CO2 emission count—should possess verifiable environmental benefit. Offsets should not be extended to include projects that are detrimental to the environment.
“More than any time in recent history, the public is focused now on the climate impacts of a warming planet,” said David VanLuven, Director, Environment New York. “New York has been a leader in tackling carbon pollution, and RGGI has been a key element of New York’s strategy to reduce pollution from fossil fuels and shift to clean energy. Strengthening RGGI is one of the best ways we can build on our state’s progress on clean energy and on reducing the pollution that causes global warming.”
“In New York, RGGI provides essential support for programs that save consumers money, reduce energy consumption and weatherize homes to be more efficient and comfortable,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment, Consumers Union.
“After three successful laps, RGGI is heading to pit row for a little work,” said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. “New Yorkers should demand more performance from this effort to reduce the pollution that is changing our climate. And Governor Cuomo is the right man to get the job done.”
“Investments in RGGI are investments in New York State,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director, Renewable Energy Long Island. “RGGI-funded investments in energy efficiency and renewables keep money in the local economy, boosting economic growth and creating jobs. Governor Cuomo should take advantage of the available avenues to grow these opportunities for the benefit of New Yorkers.”
“RGGI is the largest and most successful of any government-mandated carbon reduction program in America,” said Brian Houseal, Executive Director, The Adirondack Council. “We must take advantage of this opportunity to make minor changes that will improve its effectiveness and better protect our environment. We in the Northeast are proving that carbon emissions can be controlled without the dire consequences that were threatened by power companies when this program began five years ago. There have been no rolling blackouts or power shortages as a result of the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. If anything, this has helped the economy. It has boosted energy efficiency through the region. And, it has created good jobs through the conservation and green energy programs it has funded.”
“Just as climate change is causing tropical storms and drought to become noticeably more intense, so should our fight for a solution,” said Brian Smith, Program & Communications Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “RGGI has been a very good start, but we need great. New Yorkers are counting on Governor Cuomo to take advantage of this opportunity to improve the RGGI program and further benefit our environment, economy and public health.”
There are only five months left to finalize fixes to the program, as the RGGI review is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012. Among the New York-based, regional and national signatories that submitted the principles to strengthen RGGI to Governor Cuomo are:
New York State NGOs
Alliance for Clean Energy New York
The Catskill Center for Conservation & Development
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
Center for Working Families
Center for Medical Consumers
Chenango Clean Energy Service Corps
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
Clean and Healthy New York
Community Environmental Center
Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition
Empire State Future
Environmental Advocates of New York
Environment New York
Federated Conservationists of Westchester County
Grassroots Environmental Education
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.
Long Island City Business Development Corp.
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, Inc. of Staten Island
New York Interfaith Power & Light
New York League of Conservation Voters
New York Solar Energy Industries Association
New York Public Interest Research Group
Northern Westchester Energy Action
NYU Global Greening Initiative
The Oblong Land Conservancy
PEF/EnCon- Division 169 of the NYS Public Employees Federation
Renewable Energy Long Island
Rural Ulster Preservation Company
Sustainable South Bronx
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
New York Businesses
AWS Truepower, LLC
Cowles & Company Contracting
Earth Kind Solar Energy
Energy by Choice
Free Lighting Corp
Kalex Energy Co.
Powersmith Home Energy Solutions
New York Elected Officials
Assembly member Deborah J. Glick
Assembly member Alan Maisel
Assembly member Naomi Rivera
The Honorable Matthew T. Ryan, Mayor of Binghamton
New York City Council member Letitia James
New York Individuals
Arthur H. Kopelman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Science, FIT Department of Science and Mathematics
Theresa Swidorski, Legislative Director for Member of the Assembly Glick
Arnold P. Wendroff, PhD, Mercury Poisoning Project
Stephen O. Wilson, former Executive Director, now Emeritus Hudson River Environmental Society
National and Regional NGOs
Appalachian Mountain Club
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Clean Air Cool Planet
Clean Water Action
Conservation Law Foundation
Conservation Services Group
Energy Federation, Inc.
ENE (Environment Northeast)
Environmental Defense Fund
Health Care Without Harm
Interfaith Power and Light
National Association of Energy Service Contractors
National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low income clients
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
New England Clean Energy Council
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Union of Concerned Scientists
To date, New York State has raised $378 million from auctioning RGGI permits. More than $32 million of these RGGI dollars are currently helping homeowners reduce electric bills and invest in weatherization and energy conservation measures, such as sealing air leaks; installing insulation, energy efficient windows, and doors; and mounting solar panels. RGGI investments are also encouraging New Yorkers to install more efficient heating and water heaters. As a result of these investments, New Yorkers will save $46 million on their energy bills while adding value to their homes. Millions of dollars in additional RGGI investments are in the pipeline.
States participating in RGGI are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.