Maine Urged to Strengthen Cap on Climate-Altering Carbon Pollution

For Immediate Release

PORTLAND—Today, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection wrapped up public comment on proposed improvements to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that would reduce power plant pollution in the region by more than 20 percent over the next decade.

 “We have an obligation to protect our children and future generations from the impacts of global warming,” said Emily Figdor, Director of Environment Maine. “We commend Maine for taking action.”

Maine is one of 10 states that formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering agreement to cap carbon pollution from power plants. In February, Maine and 8 other states announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions. Maine and other member states are now revising their rules in order to carry out the agreement.

“Mainers are feeling the early effects of global warming, including troubling changes to lobster fisheries, harmful warming in trout streams, higher rates of Lyme Disease, and costly increases in heavy storms and flooding,” said Figdor. “Strengthening RGGI is one of the best ways we can reduce the pollution that causes global warming. Maine should complete this rulemaking as soon as possible.”

In calling for a strengthened limit on carbon emissions, Environment Maine highlighted RGGI’s success to date. Clean energy investments driven by RGGI through 2011 are expected to reduce global warming pollution by 12 million tons over their lifetimes, the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road for a year. At the same time, independent analysis has shown that RGGI’s impact on the economies of participating states has been positive, boosting net economic output by $1.6 billion and creating 16,000 jobs in its first two and a half years of operation, including more than $90 million in economic benefits and more than 900 jobs in Maine.

Strengthening RGGI would deliver further benefits, including preventing as much pollution as would be emitted by 16 million cars through 2020, combined with more than $8 billion in economic benefits, including energy bill savings, and more than 120,000 job-years of employment across the region.

There has been consistent and long-term support from a broad range of stakeholders for strengthening the program. For example, last year, a coalition of more than 300 environmental and public health organizations, consumer advocates and clean energy businesses sent a letter to the states’ governors, calling for reduced pollution and increasing investment in clean energy and energy efficiency measures that benefit the climate, public health, energy consumers and the economy.

Additionally, on September 20, the federal Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national limits on carbon pollution from new power plants, with rules for existing power plants expected by next June. Maine’s RGGI program provides a strong example for how states can successfully control carbon pollution – just as they have successfully reduced emissions of arsenic, lead, soot and other types of power plant pollution.

During the week of September 20, Maine Senator Angus King gave a major speech on the Senate floor about the pressing need for action on climate change. During debate about an energy efficiency bill, King said the time for delay and procrastination is over and that the scientific data clearly justifies action. He said, “The President’s carbon plan is an important first step.”

“We thank Senator King for his leadership in speaking out in favor of action,” said Figdor. “We look forward to working with officials at all levels of government to ensure that we do what it takes to reduce the impact of global warming.”  

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