Eastern States Expand Emission Cuts as Part of Cap-and-Trade

Nine states in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region have said they will cut emissions from power plants by 65% below 2020 levels by 2030, expanding a cap-and-trade program designed to reduce carbon output usually associated with power plants.

States in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) agreed to increase emissions cuts by an additional 30% beyond earlier agreed-upon levels from the program’s inception in 2009, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said August 23. RGGI cap-and-trade was the nation’s first such program to come online; other states have since enacted similar programs. Cap-and-trade requires facilities that emit greenhouse gases to cap carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and trade excess emissions at auctions run by state regulators. RGGI says its auctions have brought in more than $2.7 billion to be used by the states for programs promoting clean energy.

Basil Seggos, New York’s environmental commissioner, in a statement said “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been an incredible success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change in New York and the Northeast, while supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investments in sustainable development projects.”

RGGI includes New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. New Jersey, an original member of the group, dropped out in 2011 after Gov. Chris Christie (R) said it was a tax on the state’s utility customers.

The expanded agreement announced by Cuomo, which tracks the additional 30% cap he called for earlier this year, was reached after a series of meetings over the past two years. It includes not only the reduced cap on emissions but also other measures to cut carbon output, including extending the program to 2030. Additional details will be announced at a public stakeholder meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 25.

Environmentalists were quick to praise Wednesday’s action. “In the face of the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to undermine solutions to climate change, nine governors—Republicans and Democrats alike—doubled down on a clean energy future for their citizens,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “RGGI’s bold plan will significantly cut power plant pollution while creating new benefits to the economy and people’s health.”

California on August 22 said every emission permit offered by the state in its August cap-and-trade auction was sold, with prices at their highest level since the program was launched in 2012. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) earlier this summer signed legislation to continue that state’s program until 2030.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)