RGGI’s Results: Good For Our Climate, Economy And Consumers

Dec 6, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo courtesy of kriswho @ flickr. Creative Commons.

If you listen to the word on street, or read the headlines, you’ll have heard that our times are hard times. Joblessness remains stubbornly high, markets remain volatile and credit is tight. Most people agree that what we need is a program to creates jobs, generates money, and reinvests each of those in our communities to make them stable, healthier and happier.

According to a study by The Analysis Group, it turns out that’s exactly what the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – the country’s first market-based program to reduce power plant carbon emissions – has done. In its first three years, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, created jobs and fostered increased economic activity proving that addressing climate change is boosting the region’s economy. Simply put, efforts that increase efficiency and reduce fuel use benefit consumers, manufacturers and employers.

As the first regional program in the country, how well it is functioning is being observed by many: how much money will be generated, if any? Who does that money benefit? And, are customers bearing the brunt of this program in already hard times? The Analysis group answers these questions in full. In case you want them in short: $1.6 billion, customers and definitely not.

Outpacing now stalled negotiations on a national greenhouse gas trading program, ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states formed RGGI in 1999, setting a national precedent. The importance of the program is a combined function of its timing and its location: in addition to gaining first mover position, RGGI states are both populous and productive as they account for one-sixth of the population in the US and one-fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product.

These consumers, and this regional economy, now reflects a price on CO2 emissions. And after three years, the results are in. There are a few points to highlight.

First, the program is economically and environmentally effective. As power plant owners have spent roughly $912 million to buy CO2 allowances, emissions have gone down, as a consequence of both RGGI and larger economic trends. At the highest level, then, RGGI has proven to be economically productive while meeting its emission objectives.

Given the way RGGI dollars interact with local economies – through energy efficiency measures, assistance to low income customers to help pay their electricity bills, education and job training programs, and more – the dollars have multiplier effects. Once amplified by these local and regional programs, RGGI’s $912 million in allowance expenditures “produced to $1.6 billion in net present value (NPV) economic value added to the ten-state region.”

This money has created jobs and, in turn, kept money local. By generating a market, and a need for labor, RGGI created approximately 16,000 new job-years, or about 20% of the 73,000 civilian jobs lost from September 2010 to September 2011. Moreover, due to reduced demand and investment in energy efficiency, RGGI reduced the 10 states’ payments to out-of-region providers of fossil fuels “by just over $765 million.” New England in particular benefited greatly from this program.7,200 new job-years were created in New England alone, while the region reduced its payments to out-of-region fossil fuel providers by $210 million.

So too are the benefits to energy consumers. As a consequence of energy efficiency programs implemented by RGGI funds and focused on reducing consumption of oil and natural gas heat in homes, energy consumers across the region have saved nearly $174 million through RGGI programs. Furthermore, energy consumers came out ahead of power generators. “Of the three regions, only in New England do the savings to electricity consumers outweigh the reduction in revenues by power generators,” says the Analysis Group.

This benefit is most notably due to New England’s much-higher “level of investment in energy efficiency with RGGI allowance proceeds than the other regions.”At a time when jobs are scarce and the cost of heating a home is an ever rising burden, this is undoubtedly a good thing for New England.

As our country, and New England, faces tough times our politicians and people are calling for programs that create jobs, save money, and protect our environment. RGGI does all three.

No New Drilling in New England

Nov 10, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Fire Boats Attempt to Control Fire on BP's Deepwater Horizon

Earlier this week Secretary Salazar announced the Department of the Interior’s five-year proposal for oil and gas leases in our nation’s oceans. Much to the relief of New England’s fishermen, beachgoers, and coastal businesses, the Obama Administration’s proposal keeps the oil industry out of New England’s ocean and the rest of the Atlantic coast. CLF has long opposed oil drilling off of New England’s coasts and joined with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to block drilling 30 years ago when test wells were being drilled on the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank.

CLF opposes offshore drilling for the very simple reason that a healthy, thriving ocean free of oil spills is worth far more to our region than the oil that potentially lies beneath the waves. From fishing to recreation to coastal tourism, a healthy ocean contributes more than $17.5 billion to our economy every year.

Just over a year ago, we watched in horror as the BP Deepwater Horizon rig burst into flames, unleashing what would become the nation’s greatest environmental disaster. But for the efforts of CLF, our allies in the fishing industry and environmental community and champions such as Congressman Ed Markey, that oil could very well have been washing up on the beaches of Cape Cod’s National Seashore or on the rocky coasts of Maine.

The fact is that unless we get permanent protection for our ocean and coasts oil drilling off of New England’s coasts remains a real threat. Congress has failed to reauthorize a congressional moratorium on drilling on Georges Bank introduced by Congressman Ed Markey, and earlier this summer the House passed legislation that could require drilling off of New England’s coast and in other sensitive areas around the nation.

Given the importance of the ocean to New England’s economy and last summer’s stark example of the danger drilling poses to jobs, the economy, our beaches, wildlife and our quality of life you would think that New England’s representatives to Congress would oppose such legislation, and many did. Unfortunately Representatives Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, both of New Hampshire, supported the House legislation which passed. Most of New England’s Republican Senators, Brown of Massachusetts, Ayotte of New Hampshire and Collins of Maine all supported similar legislation in the Senate. Senator Snowe of Maine joined all of New England’s Democratic Senators to reject the drilling requirement. Fortunately, this time, the Senate voted down this legislation.

Yesterday’s decision by President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar to keep New England’s ocean and coastal economy oil rig free should be applauded as the important step forward that it is. However, New England’s ocean is far too important to our lives and our economy to face such constant threats. It is time for Senators Brown, Ayotte and Collins as well as Representatives Bass and Guinta to stand with the rest of New England’s delegation and support permanent protection from drilling off of New England’s coast. If your Representative or Senator is on that list, you can contact them by calling the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.

The future of transportation has arrived: CLF joins coalition in support of the electric vehicle

Jul 20, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

As American dependence on foreign oil only grows stronger, high unemployment remains steady, and pollution continues to rise, the current state of domestic affairs seems bleak.  One bright spot, however, aims to address and make a serious dent in these national crises: the electric vehicle (EV).  So bright is the future of EVs that over 180 businesses, municipalities and public interest groups – including the CLF – have signed a statement of support to advance EVs in the U.S.

With the magnitude of national problems and the strong universal support for the EV solution, I set out, as a newbie to EVs, to understand what all the hype is about.

Edison with an electric car in 1913. (Photo credit: americanhistory.si.edu)

While long touted as environmentally friendly and in many aspects superior to fossil fueled vehicles, the EV remains little understood, especially to a novice like myself.  Typically, when I hear EV I think Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, but as the name implies, these are hybrids of gasoline engines and rechargeable electric batteries.  An EV is different as it runs on 100% electric power, foregoing the need for gasoline, excessive emissions, and perhaps most importantly, excessive prices at the pump.  In fact, using the national average of $ 0.11/kwh, it costs a mere $ 2.75 to fill up an EV Nissan Leaf to travel 100 miles!  To travel 100 miles in my modest Subaru Impreza at my local gas station’s regular unleaded price of $ 3.72, it costs $ 16.90!

The Tesla Roadster, the industry's fastest production EV at 3.7 0-60 mph and 245 mi. range. (Photo credit: Tesla Motors)

But someone like myself may ask: Where do I charge up?  The answer is simple: At home!  While the infrastructure for public charging terminals is still under development, imagine if you could essentially have a fuel station at your home, open 24/7, and charging next to nothing rates.  Well no need to imagine, as home charging stations for EVs are the mainstay of the current EV fleet, with charging times ranging from 3 to 7 hours to charge a car from empty to full.  With prices ranging from $1000-$2200 installed, home charging stations can appear pricey.  But no need to fear the sticker, as you will easily make that cost back in a year, as my Subaru Impreza has an EPA estimated annual fuel cost of approximately $2,500, compared to the EV Nissan Leaf’s annual fuel cost of around $550!

Finally, for those of us who have a hard time conceptualizing a world where cars run on electricity, Nissan has an interesting ad that flips the perspective to a world where everything runs on gasoline; suffice it to say, you don’t want it.

What can the EV do for American job growth?  For starters, EVs have already been successful in jumpstarting job growth and placing the U.S. in a competitive position in the manufacture of EV components.  Within three years, more than 20 different EVs will be on the market, with EVs and their components being built in at least 20 states.  Furthermore, the future of EV infrastructure will provide countless job opportunities for Americans, which will not only strengthen our economy, but do so in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.

While cost savings and job growth are both attractive benefits to EVs, perhaps the greatest benefit is to environmental and public health.  The transportation sector is a significant cause of both global warming and air pollution, which affects everything from the global climate to those with sensitivity to air pollutants, such as asthmatics.  EVs have little or no tailpipe emissions, and even when power plant emissions are factored in, still have lower overall emissions of CO2 and other harmful pollutants, than traditional fuels.

Finally, where utilities provide clean energy options – natural gas, wind, solar, etc. – EVs could become truly zero emission vehicles, turning one of the America’s biggest environmental and public health problems into a solution for the world to follow.

As America faces some of the most difficult economic and environmental times in our nation’s history, the EV stands as a simple solution to tough problems.  It is not often that a decision can be made that saves you money, creates jobs and improves environmental quality.  The EV does all three.  The only thing standing in the way of success is ultimately the consumer, of which I will happily become one at the next chance I get, knowing that my EV will essentially pay for itself, while creating American jobs and saving the environment.

Editor’s note: Cory McKenna is a Cavers Legal Intern at CLF Maine. He is a student at the University of Maine School of Law.

Green Collar Jobs Growing in Maine

Jul 13, 2011 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

Photo credit: DOT

The nation’s debt crisis has been captivating lawmakers in recent weeks, and they are grasping at anything that will help their respective positions, including last month’s bleak jobs report that reflected a creeping rise in unemployment to 9.2%.  Yet against that sobering backdrop is a positive trend that reflects where employers are steadily heading: the green economy.  The green jobs sector is faring better than most nationwide, and Maine in particular is ahead of the growth curve, according to a new report released today by the Brookings Institution.

Governor LePage has been outright dismissive of “green” or “clean” jobs, claiming in May that “The majority of these ‘green jobs’ are temporary.” But the data collected by the Brookings Institution spanned over seven years.  Between 2003 and 2010, Maine added 2,914 clean jobs for a total of 12,212 clean economy jobs in the state, a rate that reflects a 4% annual growth rate in this sector compared to the 3.4% national average.  The average annual wage of a green job in Maine was $36,460, and sample clean economy employers included Ocean Renewable Power Co., LLC, Tom’s of Maine, Inc., Cianbro Corp., Woodard & Curran, Inc., and Hancock Lumber Co., Inc.

Some of the largest segments in the state include jobs related to conservation, waste management and treatment, public mass transit, sustainable forestry products and energy-saving building materials.  The green economy is an important element of the state’s future financial well-being, and the economic activity includes a broad swath of products from wind turbines and solar photovoltiacs to services such as mass transit and regulation.

The trend here in Maine reflects what is happening on a national scale: while almost every other job sector is ratcheting back and waiting for some break in the recession, positions tied to sustainability and renewable energy are taking off.  Nationally, the clean economy employs 2.7 million people, double the 1.2 employed by the fossil fuel industry according to the Pew Center.

Entirely new positions, such as “Chief Sustainability Officers” are being created to ensure that companies are not only environmentally responsible but take advantage of cost-saving mechanisms through energy efficiency.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of job postings containing the keyword “sustainability” more than quadrupled in May of this year.  The number containing “wind” and “solar” more than doubled in the same time period.

For a country that consumes 19 million barrels of oil per day, it is refreshing to see a trend that reflects a critical acknowledgement: business as usual leaves us vulnerable.  A paradigm shift in hiring priorities and business practice gives us hope for economic and environmental sustainability.  And a big “attaboy” to Maine for fiercely trudging along and outpacing the national growth trends.

Hands Across the Generations

Jul 5, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Hands Across The Sand

CLF's Winston Vaughan and Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association's Angela Sanfilippo speak to the crowd. (Photo credit: Sean Cosgrove, CLF)

On Saturday, June 25, 45 people braved what was forecast to be a cloudy, rainy day to gather on a quiet Pavilion Beach in Gloucester, MA. As the sun emerged, they joined hands and looked out on the open ocean.

This seemingly quiet moment sent a loud, clear message. A message that New England’s ocean has shaped our past and will shape our future, and that future should be based on sustainable industries like fishing and tourism – not oil drilling. And we weren’t alone in calling for a healthy ocean and healthy coastal communities. In Gloucester, Cape Town, South Africa, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and even Wilson, Wyoming, thousands joined hands with strangers and spoke with one voice to call for an end to destructive offshore drilling, healthy oceans and clean, renewable energy.

I was honored to be joined on Pavilion Beach by Angela Sanfilippo. Angela is the leader of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, and an ally of CLF’s going back to the first days we worked together to oppose, litigate and eventually stop oil drilling on Georges Bank in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many in the crowd, myself included, weren’t even born then.

Looking out over that beautiful ocean, and over my shoulder at the community of Gloucester which was ready for their annual Fiesta of Saint Peter, I realized how great a debt we owe to people like Angela and my colleagues at CLF who fought so hard and so long to protect our ocean and all that it gives us. A great debt indeed, and one that can only be repaid by joining their fight.

That fight is more important than ever today. This year, Congress came very close to passing legislation that would have required a massive expansion of offshore drilling, including wells off of New England’s coast in the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank. While that legislation has been defeated for now, it is likely to come up again. We owe it to Angela, and to future generations, to protect our coasts and invest in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

“Hands Across the Sand” may be a small gesture. To some people it seems a little quaint, maybe even odd. To me, it’s an indication of the strong ties between the people of Gloucester and their ocean, of a life spent working to protect the people and places that we care about, and a down payment on the debt we owe to those who have spent their lives defending our ocean. A life well spent indeed.

Join hands for a healthy ocean

Jun 22, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

This Saturday, June 25, thousands of people from all across the world will take part in an event known as “Hands Across the Sand” by taking a trip to their local beach and joining hands with friends, neighbors and total strangers to send a message to our leaders—no to expanded offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy. Last year more than 100,000 people took part in this event in all 50 states and in 43 countries around the world.

This year’s Hands Across the Sand could not come at a more important time and that is why CLF has joined as a sponsor of the event. With memories of the BP Horizon disaster fading from the public memory, and gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, the oil industry and their allies in Congress are mounting a major effort to dramatically expand oil drilling in US waters. They are even bringing back a proposal that seemed unthinkable a year ago—oil drilling on New England’s Georges Bank, one of the richest fisheries on earth. The truly scary part is that Big Oil is making progress. In Washington DC the House of Representatives recently passed 3 bills that would have required a massive expansion of offshore drilling, and a recent poll shows that public support for drilling is on the rise as gas prices tick up.

The drilling bill was rejected in the US Senate (no thanks to Senator Scott Brown) but the threat of oil rigs in New England’s waters remain a very real possibility, threatening New England’s critical fishing, tourism and outdoor recreation industries which employ tens of thousands and sustainably generate far more revenue than oil drilling ever could.

There is an old saying that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish he will eat for the rest of his life. Drilling in New England might create a few jobs years down the road for as long as the oil lasts, but we would be risking far more jobs in other ocean industries such as fishing. However by improving the health of our oceans and fisheries, and promoting the responsible development of renewable energy, we will create jobs that last for generations to come.

That is why this Saturday CLF is joining with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to sponsor a Hands Across the Sand event at noon this Saturday, June 25th on Pavilion Beach in Gloucester. Environmentalists, fishermen and beachgoers will all be there to join hands and say no to offshore drilling and yes to a clean, renewable energy future and yes to healthy oceans and the jobs they support. I hope you can join us in Gloucester but if you can’t make it, click here to find an event near you.

P.S. If you need another reason to come, the Gloucester Hands Across the Sand event will coincide with the annual Saint Peter’s Fiesta so you can speak out for our ocean and have a great time in Gloucester too!

Crude Politics

Jun 8, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, many New Englanders are rightfully asking why we’re paying so much at the pump. Many economists will point to price speculation and other factors such as political unrest and conflicts in oil producing nations. Oil industry reps have been claiming that high prices are due to all that clean air we use and all those required practices that help keep workers safe. They seem to think our leaders in congress should reduce environmental regulations put in place after the BP oil spill.

The fact of the matter is that domestic production has little to do with the price of oil, which is set on the world market.  In fact last year US oil production reached its highest levels since 2003.

David Koch — a billionaire oilman widely known for funding campaigns to discredit climate science and oppose the construction of clean, renewable wind energy projects—has launched a new campaign through his group “Americans for Prosperity” to convince us that environmental regulations are to blame for high gas prices. Furthermore, they are looking to target political leaders who support tougher safety and environmental reviews for the oil industry that could prevent another catastrophic spill, and the clean energy sources that could break our addiction to their oil.

While most serious economists will tell you that the conflict in Libya, and soaring demand for gas in emerging economies such as China are the key factors driving energy prices up, most serious economists don’t have billions of dollars to spend on massive PR campaigns and secret political donations. As mentioned in this story the Koch brothers are betting that their ad campaigns and political donations will be enough to convince our leaders in congress to ignore real solutions and instead weaken environmental regulations.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing signs that their campaign is working.  As I wrote last week, the US House of Representatives recently passed three bills that would have required massively expanded offshore drilling all around the country, including in New England.  Thankfully, the Senate voted down a similar measure, but oil industry supporters have vowed to keep up the fight. Unfortunately when faced with a decision between big oil and New Englanders who depend on a healthy ocean, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown sided with big oil. Click here to hear the radio ads CLF is running across the state, and here to write Senator Brown to urge him to stand with us in opposition to expanded drilling and for real solutions to high gas prices.

CLF and NRDC Take Scott Brown to Task in New Radio Ads

Jun 3, 2011 by  | Bio |  4 Comment »

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has been striking a defensive pose in recent weeks as non-profit groups and the thousands of Massachusetts voters they count as members called him out about his votes on the environment. A new radio ad from CLF and NRDC, launching today in major markets across Massachusetts, asks Brown to explain his latest votes in support of big oil, approving the continuation of huge subsidies for oil companies and opening up New England’s oceans (among other areas) to new offshore drilling. Brown’s rhetoric setting up a false choice between protecting the environment and creating a thriving Massachusetts economy is ringing hollow. We wonder what his response will be this time.

Siding with Big Oil – Senator Scott Brown by conservationlawfoundation

TAKE ACTION NOW! Tell Senator Scott Brown to protect our coasts, not big oil.

TIME’S RUNNING OUT! Tell your senators to protect our oceans and coasts, not open them up to offshore drilling!

May 18, 2011 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

Another important Senate vote comes today around 2:30ish when the pro-drilling bill S.953, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is scheduled to be voted on. This bill hides behind a fig leaf of a drilling “safety improvement” by requiring a spill response plan, but it really seeks to increase drilling by requiring leasing off the coast of Virginia and in the Arctic and setting a deadline that all proposed leases have to be decided in 60 days. McConnell’s bill also restricts court access for an legal action against a drilling operation. Is the oil industry really in need of legislation that limits court access away from the public’s interest? Isn’t the playing field already more than a bit skewed in favor of the industry that seems to create a new lobbying PAC each year?


SEND AN E-MAIL to your senators via CLF’s action alert and tell them to vote to protect our oceans and coasts, not open them up to oil drilling.

– CALL your senators through the US Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and urge them to oppose the McConnell dirty drilling bill.