Northeast States Can Make Huge Difference in Tackling Climate-Altering Pollution

Media Contacts
Channing Jones

Rhode Island, other states urged to follow through on commitment to reduce power plant emissions

Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center

Ten Northeast states, from Maryland to Rhode Island to Maine, are responsible for as much climate-altering carbon pollution as all but nine nations, according to a report released today by Environment Rhode Island. In 2010, the region emitted 533 million metric tons of carbon pollution, more than the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil and France.

“In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo and Hurricane Sandy, the Northeast must double down on its commitment to lead our country in reducing the pollution that’s warming the planet and changing our climate,” said Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island.

The report, A Double Success: Tackling Global Warming While Growing the Economy with an Improved Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also shows that lowering global warming emissions is consistent with a growing economy. Between 2000 and 2010, the economies of the ten Northeast states grew twice as fast per capita as other states, while carbon dioxide emissions fell 25 percent faster per capita. Recent analyses have also shown RGGI has produced a $1.6 billion economic boost to the region through 2011 and that strengthening RGGI could produce an additional $8 billion in economic benefits.

“By using RGGI to accelerate investments in energy efficiency, the Northeast states have made RGGI into a winner for businesses and consumers in the Northeast,” said Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) Public Policy Director Jim O’Reilly. “This report shows that RGGI will continue to be a critical tool for states to manage their energy use and maintain our competitive advantage as we emerge from the economic downturn.”

Environment Rhode Island’s report points out that, in terms of global warming, Rhode Island and the rest of the world are in a race against time, citing studies showing that 100-year coastal floods are now predicted to occur every 15 to 35 years. The changing climate threatens 55,000 Rhode Island residents living in coastal flood zones, and could lead to $700 million in storm-related economic losses by mid-century.

All 10 Northeast states were part of the original Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering agreement to cap carbon pollution from power plants. In February, Rhode Island and 8 other states announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions that would lead to a 20 percent reduction over the next decade. States are now revising their rules in order to carry out the agreement.

“These proposed changes to RGGI lock in the CO2 pollution reductions achieved to date from power plants across the region, while also providing a path forward for additional emissions reductions,” said Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “The program will also continue to encourage job creation by local businesses focusing on energy efficiency, and will continue to help prevent many millions of dollars from being sent out of the region in the form of fuel payments. Both these measures support continued regional economic growth and deliver a triple-play of environmental, consumer, and economic benefits to families and businesses in Rhode Island and throughout the region.”

Environment Rhode Island urged state lawmakers to follow through on the state’s commitment to strengthen RGGI by quickly adopting strong rules to lower emissions from power plants. Environment Rhode Island also urged taking further action, including:

  • Northeast states should adopt limits on global warming pollution that go beyond the electricity sector, including transportation and heating fuels. This could include expanding RGGI to other sectors. 
  • More states should join RGGI.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should move forward on limiting global warming pollution from existing power plants in all states. 
  • Rhode Island should move forward with complementary state-level policies that increase in-state renewable energy production and expand energy efficiency programs.

“Strengthening programs such as RGGI is a win-win for the Northeast,” added Jones. “We can reduce the impacts of global warming while powering our clean energy economy.”