Providence, RI – 546 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast, called on Governor Gina Raimondo 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 Sol Power, We Fix It, and Rhode Island state representatives, 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 Morgan Folger, climate campaign organizer with Environment Rhode Island. “From Rhode Island to Maryland, 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.
“RGGI funds invested in renewable energy helped us start and scale up our business. In particular, the Solarize programs in RI have been crucial in helping us to expand our workforce and to install hundreds of clean energy generating rooftop solar installations,” said Eric Beecher of Sol Power, a Rhode Island-based solar installation company. “We strongly support strengthening RGGI so that our business can continue to grow and put up more PV systems.”
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.
Unsal Arda, owner of We Fix It, said, "RGGI has helped cut down pollution and money spent on energy. It’s extremely important to continue programs like these and strengthen them so they can bring more benefits for both businesses and the environment as a whole.”
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.
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 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 Rhode Island 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 Folger.
Environment Rhode Island 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.environmentrhodeislandcenter.org.