Portland – More than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers, and community leaders from the Northeast, called on Governor LePage’s administration 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).
The groups, including Goggin Energy, Maine Solar Solutions, various city council members, Maine representatives, and Maine Public Health Association, 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 Emma Rotner. “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.
- More local clean energy. In the first decade, the program generated $2.5 billion for clean energy and energy efficiency.
- Stronger economy. In its first six years, the program boosted the regional economy by $3 billion while creating more than 30,000 job-years.
“We should be doing whatever we can to assure that all Mainers have the opportunity to lead healthy lives,” said Rebecca Boulos, the executive director of Maine Public Health Association. “By participating in RGGI, Maine is demonstrating its commitment to cleaner air for our most vulnerable residents. Lowering the cap further will mean even greater health gains.”
The way RGGI creates these benefits is ingenious: by ratcheting 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.
“By participating in RGGI, Maine has shown itself to be a leader in curbing pollution and supporting energy efficiency. Not only does the RGGI reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, it also generates revenue that is then reinvested into the clean energy economy,” said Belinda Ray, a councilor on Portland’s city council. “It is vital that Maine remain a part of this incredibly effective nine-state collaboration.”
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 the hottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. People across the region are feeling the impacts, including: sea level rise, droughts, flooding, and more severe storms.
“Maine’s way of life is inextricably tied to our natural resources. With 2016 the warmest year on record, it’s more important than ever for states to take bold action to protect our citizens, our environment and our natural resources from the disastrous effects of climate change,” said Maine Senator Rebecca Millet.
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 emission cuts of 2.5 percent per year.
“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 Millet.
“The good news is that Maine has been leading the charge to protect our health and environment and shift to clean energy,” said Emma Rotner. “Now it’s time to build on that success and make America’s best regional climate program twice as good.”
Environment Maine Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are 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. For more information, visit www.environmentMainecenter.org.