Augusta, Maine—The Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee today rejected a bill, LD 793, which would have withdrawn Maine from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Instead, it reaffirmed an existing condition for Maine’s participation in the RGGI program.
“The RGGI program is a win-win for Maine’s environment and economy. It’s cutting pollution, reducing energy costs, and creating jobs. Pulling Maine out of the program would have been shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.
Under the RGGI program, large power producers are charged a fee for their carbon pollution, and Maine has invested that money in energy efficiency and clean energy, which saves businesses and consumers money and grows the state’s economy. Because Maine’s electricity rates are determined on a regional basis, Maine would continue to pay the costs of the program if it had withdrawn from the program, while forgoing the substantial economic as well as the environmental benefits.
The amendment approved today reaffirms an original condition to Maine’s participation in the program – specifically that New England states producing a minimum of 35 million tons of the annual carbon dioxide emissions budget must continue to participate in the program.
No Maine businesses testified in support of the bill at the public hearing in April. In contrast, several large companies that have received RGGI grants, including Moose River Lumber, Twin Rivers Paper, GAC Chemical, Maine Wild Blueberry, Mt. Abram, Portage Wood Products, Jackson Laboratory, and Sunday River sent the Committee a letter saying that “Businesses like ours have benefited directly from RGGI funds because the money has supported investments that reduce energy costs and allow us to operate more efficiently and profitably.” The companies urged the Committee to “...ensure that businesses like ours and the state as a whole can continue to benefit from the program by using the RGGI program to leverage additional investments in cost-effective energy efficiency, including in Maine’s industrial sector, where such opportunities abound.”
“We applaud the Committee for rejecting this bill. The state would have walked away from millions of dollars each year – money that is currently cutting energy costs, creating jobs, and cutting pollution,” said Figdor.
According to Synapse Energy Economics, the ratio of avoided costs of electricity to program costs in Maine is 3.76 to 1, meaning that the direct economic benefits of the program far outweigh the costs. All told, the program has exceeded its pollution-reduction goals, while generating $24 million in energy efficiency investments for Maine. So far, these investments have saved Maine consumers an estimated $113 million, saved or created nearly 1,400 jobs, and grown the state’s economy by $118 million, according to an up-to-date analysis by Environment Northeast.
According to Efficiency Maine Trust, as of last year, the state had invested:
• $7.1 million of RGGI revenue in the state’s Large Project Grant Program, which provides grants (a total of 19 grants as of last December) to industry and businesses for large-scale energy efficiency projects, such as to Madison Paper, GAC Chemical, Irving Forest, and Moose River Lumber.
• $5.8 million in the Efficiency Maine Business Program, which provides incentives for businesses to replace out-of-date equipment and to update to energy efficient alternatives.
• $2.9 million in the Efficiency Maine Residential Lighting Program and Appliance Rebate Program, which reduce energy demand and provide sustain cost savings to Maine consumers.
• $650,000 in low-income weatherization programs.