Boston, MA – 546 organizations, academics, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast, including over 125 from Massachusetts, called on Governor Baker and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors to strengthen the nation’s best regional cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The groups, including the Mayors of Worcester and Holyoke, Senators Eldridge, Handler, and Lewis, and Representatives Connolly and Smizik, doctors, environmental and public health professors, and energy companies such as Acela Energy, Brightstar Solar, and Barrett Energy Resources Group sent a letter to the governors asking them to “deliver clean air and a safe, healthy climate for us all.” 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 Meghan Hassett of Environment Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts has a leadership role to play when it comes to aggressively curbing global warming emissions and shifting toward renewable energy,” said State Representative Mike Connolly. “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, RGGI 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, including $427 million for the Commonwealth. 155 cities and towns in Massachusetts are RGGI-funded “Green Communities.”
Stronger economy. In its first six years, the program boosted the regional economy by $3 billion while creating more than 30,000 job-years.
“There’s never been a more urgent time to tackle the climate crisis,” said Dr. Daniel Faber, Director of the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative. “With no leadership coming from Washington D.C., it’s up to Governor Baker to lead the charge.”
“Thanks to RGGI, our business cut pollution and helped institutions around the Commonwealth save money on energy. But we can’t do it alone. By doubling down on this program across the region, we can make a significant impact,” said John Rizzo, CEO of ADI Energy.
RGGI creates these benefits by ratcheting down emissions each year and making 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.
“In addition to slowing further damage to the climate, RGGI has led directly to cleaner, healthier air throughout Massachusetts by reducing pollution that worsens heart and lung diseases,” said Patrick Kinney, Beverley A. Brown Professor of Urban Health at Boston University. “Less air pollution saves lives right here, right now. We should seize this opportunity to realize additional health benefits.”
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 it was launched.
“Here in Massachusetts, we are on the frontlines of dealing with drought, coastal flooding, and other harmful effects of climate change; on behalf of my constituents, I urge the governors across our region of the country to act on climate with programs like RGGI to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” said State Senator Jason Lewis.
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 respiratory issues, severe storms, drought, and flooding.
On average, power plant pollution in the region has 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 allowable pollution by 5 percent per year through 2030 and addressing loopholes that undermine the program. That would double the strength of the cap, which currently requires emissions cuts of 2.5 percent per year.
“If we’re serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, we have to invest in renewable energy programs, and make sure that every single community, family, and business can benefit from renewable energy across Massachusetts,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “Governors of our region must continue investing in smart, sustainable programs like RGGI to reverse the destructive impacts of climate change.”
“The good news is that these nine states have been leading the charge to protect our health and environment and shift to clean energy,” said Hassett. “Now it’s time to build on that success and make America’s best regional climate program twice as good.”
Environment Massachusetts 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: http://www.environmentmassachusettscenter.org/