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US States Should Study the Northeast for EPA Compliance Answers

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares to release draft regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector on June 2nd, this week ENE released a report describing how the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) provides a proven, effective model for reducing power plant emissions.

The report, The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Performance To-Date and the Path Ahead, finds that emissions of CO2 and other pollutants have dropped since RGGI launched, and the program has generated significant economic benefits in participating states.

In all there has been a 29 percent decline in CO2 emissions, which has been accompanied by an 8 percent drop in electricity prices across the region.  These trends are principally due to increased generation from natural gas, decreased generation from carbon-intensive coal and oil plants, and investments in renewables and energy efficiency.  To varying degrees these trends are mirrored across the country, indicating that emissions can be reduced at lower costs than often assumed.

"RGGI has demonstrated the effectiveness of a regional, market-based approach to reducing carbon pollution, providing a model, cost-effective mechanism to meet federal requirements," said Peter Shattuck, Director of Market Initiatives at ENE and lead author of the report.

Since RGGI went into effect, member states have been able to reduce emissions faster than the rest of the country, while outpacing economic growth outside the region. 

As states consider options to comply EPA regulations, RGGI's market-based flexibility and state control over revenue allocation will likely increase interest in joining or replicating the program in other states.  RGGI itself may require modest revisions to gain EPA approval, but the program is well positioned to serve as a model compliance tool.

"From weatherization programs that help Mainers save on heating costs to multi-family building retrofits in Maryland, RGGI can be adapted to meet unique local needs," said ENE President, Daniel Sosland.  "As climate change impacts continue to mount, RGGI shows a means of addressing the problem while promoting complementary consumer and clean energy goals."

You can read the full report here.

Lead image: Emissions via Shutterstock

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