The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently joined its partners in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants over the next six years. Massachusetts and the other eight RGGI states agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90 million tons, a reduction that is about 30 times the amount of emissions released from the state’s largest power plant.
MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell and DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia played a leading role in obtaining this agreement, with strong backing from Governor Deval Patrick and EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan.
The historic agreement calls for the nine states to lower an existing “cap” on power plant emissions from the current level of 165 million tons per year to 91 million tons per year. This will also generate an estimated $350 million in additional revenue for Massachusetts for the period ending 2020, and these revenues will be invested in helping Massachusetts businesses and residences become more energy efficient.
In announcing the agreement and the Commonwealth’s support, Governor Deval Patrick said that it would not only reduce emissions, but increase growth of the clean energy economy in Massachusetts. “It is also a strong statement that this region, which comprises nearly 20 percent of the national economy, is serious about being stewards of our environment and addressing climate change,” he said.
The RGGI revisions followed a comprehensive two-year program review. The states determined that the current supply of carbon allowances in the nine-state region (165 million) far exceeds the demand (91 million in 2012), so the RGGI Agency Heads decided to reduce the cap to 91 million tons. They also decided that the cap should be reduced by 2.5 percent per year after 2014, so that by 2020, emissions from the RGGI states will be substantially lower than they are today.
“This is one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction measures that we have seen, and the best part is that it is not just Massachusetts doing the reduction – eight other states are joining us,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. “I applaud the Governor’s leadership on this issue and am proud that Massachusetts is a driving force behind this second historic agreement.”
“The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act put Massachusetts on a path to make steep reductions to its greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement will help the Commonwealth reach our ambitious goals,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “I am also pleased that a bi-partisan group of energy and environmental commissioners from nine states recognized that this is not only good environmental policy, but good economic policy for each of the states.”
Massachusetts and the eight other RGGI states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – form the nation’s first mandatory “cap-and-trade” program for carbon dioxide emissions. Each state agreed to seek the necessary changes to its laws or regulations to implement the agreement by early 2014.
In Massachusetts, the new RGGI model rule is currently being drafted and reviewed. It is expected that the regulatory revisions to implement the model rule changes will go out for public comment this summer, and be finalized by the end of the year.
RGGI is a collaborative effort to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by requiring that certain power generators purchase “allowances” to correspond to their emissions. RGGI has worked successfully to lower power plant emissions, providing the member states with allowance proceeds that they have invested in the clean energy economy.
An independent analysis of the first three years of the RGGI program concluded that it added $400 million in net present economic value to Massachusetts alone, electricity consumers enjoyed a net lifetime gain of nearly $1.1 billion, as their overall electric bills drop over time, and the RGGI states lowered by more than $765 million the total dollars sent outside the region in the form of payments for fuel.
For more information on the RGGI program and the emission reductions, visit: Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Historic Nine-State Agreement to Significantly Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants.