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Bill Reauthorizing RGGI Becomes Law

Regionally, RGGI has produced at least $5.7 billion in clean air health benefits.  (byrev/Pixabay.com)
Regionally, RGGI has produced at least $5.7 billion in clean air health benefits. (byrev/Pixabay.com)
March 1, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine is now committed to making even deeper cuts in carbon pollution from power plants. Legislation passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature went into effect at midnight Tuesday, reauthorizing the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – or RGGI – a multi-state compact that caps carbon emissions from the energy sector.

Kathleen Meil, policy advocate with the Acadia Center, says the nine RGGI states agreed last fall to new, tighter pollution limits for 2021 to 2030.

"Maine is now the first RGGI state to officially usher in the strengthened program,” she says. “It really represents a strong step forward for Maine to continue to reap the benefits of RGGI participation."

RGGI caps carbon emissions and reduces that cap every year. Carbon credits are auctioned off to power companies and the proceeds are used support energy efficiency improvements.

Meil points out that RGGI has been extremely successful at what it was designed to do – cutting carbon emissions that foul the air and cause climate change.

"They've declined each of the last six years and are down 40 percent since the program launched,” says Meil. “And the new cap will reduce emissions by an additional 2.5 percent per year after 2020."

In the past five years, RGGI funds leveraged $88 million in private investment in Maine, yielding $277 million in energy savings for homes and businesses.

Meil notes that by reducing carbon pollution in the air we breathe, RGGI has produced at least $5.7 billion in health benefits throughout the region.

"That's reduction in bronchitis and asthma and lost workdays and premature death,” she says, “so there's really a tremendous impact."

She adds that, as the federal government withdraws from efforts to curb carbon emissions, programs such as RGGI are playing an increasingly critical role in addressing climate change.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME