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Keeping RGGI on Track

RGGI has helped fund rebates on purchases of more than 5,750 electric vehicles in New York. (Stivabc/Pixabay)
RGGI has helped fund rebates on purchases of more than 5,750 electric vehicles in New York. (Stivabc/Pixabay)
May 30, 2018

NEW YORK – Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative money is funding meaningful environmental programs in New York, but a new report from Environmental Advocates of New York says there's room for improvement.

The initiative, known as REGGIE, is a nine-state agreement that caps carbon emissions from power plants and auctions off the allowances.

RGGI has raised more than $1 billion for New York, helping almost 20,000 households invest in energy efficiency and funding rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles.

But according to Conor Bambrick, air and energy director at EANY, in recent years money has been diverted to other purposes or used to replace funds that were already being spent.

"The money's been used in some instances to plug gaps in the state budget,” he states. “There's been a significant amount of money sent down to the Long Island Power Authority for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, but at the same time LIPA cut back on the spending on their own programs."

The report includes a number of recommendations to improve transparency and accountability for the distribution of RGGI funds, and to identify clean energy priorities.

Bambrick says at the top of the list is a recommendation that a minimum of 40 percent of RGGI funds be dedicated to environmental justice communities and communities on the front lines of climate change.

"They're also recommending that the state update its regulations to identify ways to reduce pollution in those communities at a faster rate," he points out.

Over the last two years, the nine RGGI states have reviewed the program to determine what works well, what can be improved and how to extend it.

Bambrick credits Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation for taking the lead early last year on pushing RGGI to achieve further greenhouse-gas reductions.

"They've certainly led the way in developing a plan to continue RGGI out through the year 2030 and to continue reducing the cap on pollution which will in turn bring in additional revenue to the state."

Last August, the RGGI states announced they had reached an agreement to reduce the greenhouse emissions cap by at least 30 percent of 2020 levels by the year 2030.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY