New York, NY– More than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers, and community leaders from the Northeast, called on Governor Cuomo and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors to strengthen the nation’s best regional climate and clean air program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Members from the New York State Assembly and New York Senate; the New York League of Conservation Voters and Citizens for Local Power; New York Presbyterian and Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Columbia University as well as New York University, sent a letter to the governors asking them to “deliver clean air and a safe, healthy climate for us all.” Specifically, the letter calls for governors to “double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” to head off the worst effects of climate change.
“We’re on the right track, but we need to do much more,” said Melanie Perl, Campaign Organizer with Environment New York. “From Maryland to Maine, we can make America’s best regional climate and clean air program twice as effective.”
Over the last decade, the program helped cut emissions from power plants in half. In addition to cutting climate pollution, the RGGI program has created significant benefits for the region, including:
- Cleaner air. In its first six years, the program prevented 600 premature deaths, 9,000 asthma attacks, and 43,000 lost work days in the region.
- More local clean energy. In the first decade, the program generated $2.5 billion for clean energy and energy efficiency. In 2015, solar energy in New York reduced carbon pollution equivalent to the emissions from 70,000 vehicles
- Stronger economy. In its first six years, the program boosted the regional economy by $3 billion while creating more than 30,000 job-years. In Buffalo, the “GigaFactory” will be home to the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere. The company expects to create 3,000 new jobs in the city.
“There’s never been a more urgent time to tackle the climate crisis. With no leadership coming from Washington D.C., it’s up to Governor Cuomo to lead the charge,” said Melanie Perl.
“RGGI has proven that we can reduce pollution, create jobs, and increase economic prosperity. By doubling down on this program across the region, we’ll continue to show the country how clean energy leadership builds a vibrant economy and healthy environment,” said Ron Kamen, CEO of EarthKind Energy.
“For decades, our power plants have contributed to increased asthma rates and increases in hospitalizations and ER visits that exceed the average. said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee. “Now more than ever, these plants must become better neighbors and reduce their emissions even more. That includes stopping the practice of burning dirty fuel oils while looking to repower older facilities. I join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in calling for power plants throughout our region to take decisive action on climate.”
The way RGGI creates these benefits is ingenious: it’s a system that ratchets down emissions each year and makes polluters pay to pollute. That revenue—$2.5 billion to date—is then invested in clean energy and energy efficiency, which has led to healthier communities and thriving economies.
Over the next few months, officials from the nine participating states will evaluate options for improving the program as part of a review process established when the program was launched.
“Our region and state has seen significant health benefits from this program, and we should seize this opportunity to deliver additional benefits,” said Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The letter also notes that the need to reduce pollution to protect our climate is only growing more urgent. In January, NASA announced that 2016 was thehottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. People across the region are feeling the impacts. Here in the New York, we have borne the brunt of serious heat waves and major hurricanes.
On average, power plant pollution in the region have been falling by almost 5 percent per year since 2005.In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.
The coalition is calling on the governors to keep up that pace by lowering the limit on pollution by 5 percent per year through 2030 and address loopholes that undermine the program. That would double the strength of the cap, which currently requires emissions cuts of 2.5 percent per year.
“The good news is that New York has been leading the charge to protect our health and environment and shift to clean energy. Now it’s time to build on that success and make America’s best regional climate program twice as good,” said Melanie Perl.