Portland – As the federal government attempts to roll back programs that limit air pollution with the Clean Cars Standards and the Clean Power Plan under attack, Environment Maine Research & Policy Center released a new report showing that Governor LePage could act to accelerate progress in cutting pollution. The report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, concludes that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would cut dangerous global warming pollution from power plants in half by 2030 and generate almost $700 million to invest in clean energy – enough to weatherize 260,000 homes, over one-third of all homes in Maine.*
“Right now, Governor LePage is our best hope for action to protect the climate,” said Emma Rotner, Campaign Organizer. “He should act quickly. We can’t count on the federal government, so it is up to Maine to lead the region, the nation and even the world towards a clean energy future. We can all benefit from less pollution and more clean energy.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country. This program limits dangerous pollution from power plants in Maine and across the region – helping to slow the warming of our planet. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.
The report, co-authored by Frontier Group, illustrates the opportunity before the governor. It finds that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (compared to simply keeping the program on its current trajectory) would:
· Avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over a decade, the equivalent of making more than 1 million homes run entirely on solar power.
“ This Earth is the only one we’ve got, and we have to protect it however we can, to the fullest extent of our ability. But in Maine, threats to our environment are immediate in more ways than one. They jeopardize our way of life and our economy,” Said Maine Senator Rebecca Millet.
“In Maine, we have particularly benefited from reduced carbon emissions from other states. We need to be doing whatever we can to assure that all Mainers have the opportunity to lead healthy lives, regardless of where in Maine they live,” said Rebecca Bulous, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association.
The report also reviewed the impressive benefits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has achieved for Maine since it was created in 2005. Key findings include:
· It has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants 75%. That is the equivalent of retiring 1.2 coal-fired power plants. On average, power plant pollution in the region has been falling by almost 5 percent per year. In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.
· It has driven an $84 Million investment in clean energy, energy efficiency and consumer benefit programs in Maine. Across the whole region, those programs have locked in more than $4.6 billion in long-term savings on our energy bills. That’s an incredible $3.5 in savings for every dollar spent on clean energy.
“It makes sense to pick up the pace,” said Emma Rotner. “2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet – beating out 2015 and before that, 2014. Putting the brakes on warming will require us to move faster in cutting pollution.”
“RGGI program improved air quality throughout the Northeast, and created major benefits to public health and productivity, including avoiding hundreds of premature deaths and tens of thousands of lost work days,” said Rebecca Boulos.
In February, more than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast called on Governor LePage and other regional governors to double the strength of the program and close several loopholes.
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a model for how states can work together, regardless of whether policymakers in Washington backslide on our obligation to future generations,” said Senator Rebecca Millet.
“As good as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is, we can make it better,” said Emma Rotner. “We need Governor LePage and governors across the region to accelerate our progress in the fight against global warming, and magnify the important benefits that come from reducing pollution.”
* This report was updated in May 2017 to strengthen its conclusions, as described in footnote 62 on page 24.