Northeast Clean Air Partnership Comes Together

Governor George E. Pataki, known for his staunch support of renewable energy, is making environmental strides again. This time, Pataki received commitments from the Governors of nine northeast states to join New York State in a regional strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The initiative proposed by the Governor would involve developing a market-based emissions trading system to require power generators to reduce emissions.

Albany, New York – July 29, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “By taking bold steps to control pollution and investing in the development of alternative and more efficient energy initiatives, New York State has led the nation in improving air quality,” Governor Pataki said. “I thank the leaders of northeast states who have joined New York in this historic initiative to build on those efforts by working together to develop an effective regional strategy to further reduce harmful emissions.” On April 25, 2003, Governor Pataki sent letters to 10 governors encouraging their participation in the regional strategy. The Governor directed Public Service Commission Chairman William M. Flynn and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty to contact their counterparts and gauge their respective state’s level of interest within 90 days. The two agency leaders provided an assessment of the progress made on the initiative. “Governor Pataki’s recognition that regional cooperation among states is a key to developing effective strategies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions has received broad support from our neighboring states,” said New York State Public Service Commission Chairman William M. Flynn. “Just as electricity is being traded in larger, more regional markets, it makes sense to move forward with a regional cap and trade program for emissions, and I look forward to working with my counterparts on this important issue.” To date, the governors of Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have sent letters expressing their interest in working with New York to develop a cap and trade program for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Maryland has indicated that they may participate in the discussions at a later date. “With such a positive bi-partisan response to address climate change pollution, the Northeast can now move expeditiously to establish a framework for a multi-state cap and trade program for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants,” said Ashok Gupta, Director of the Air and Energy Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The debate in the Northeast is no longer about climate science but how best to use existing technologies to reduce emissions and minimize energy costs at the same time.” The Greenhouse Gas Task Force was formed by Governor Pataki in June 2001 to assist the state in developing policy recommendations and strategies to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A majority of the Task Force members agreed and recommended that the State pursue a regional approach to reducing emissions. An independent facilitator, the Center for Clean Air Policy, based in Washington D.C., issued a report based upon the Task Force process in April. “Since the nine northeastern states that have joined this initiative have about 1/5 of the nation’s population, this is not only a major regional initiative, but a critical national precedent as to how to deal with global warming,” said James T. B. Tripp, general counsel of Environmental Defense, a national environmental organization, and a member of Governor Pataki’s Greenhouse Gas Task Force Leaders from the states participating in the regional initiative will next convene in September 2003 to begin detailed discussions on the development of the initiative. The overall goal of the group is to reach an agreement by April 2005 on a flexible, market-based cap and trade program. “Governor Pataki’s vision and leadership have made New York a national leader in improving air quality,” said DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty. “With a collaborative approach among northeast states, we can make tremendous strides in taking pollutants out of our skies. The support we have witnessed in response to the Governor’s proposal is an important first step as we foster partnerships that will work toward improving public health and the environment through reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.”

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