Maine just took an important step forward in the fight against climate change. In a move that will help Maine reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector, the Maine Legislature recently passed a bill that commits the state to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for the years 2021 to 2030. Maine was already part of this nine-state group working to cut climate-damaging emissions, and the new law commits the state to further reductions.
RGGI Benefits Families, Businesses, and the Environment
First established in 2009, RGGI has generated significant environmental, economic, and health benefits in its first decade of operation. The program has reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 45 percent and saved families and businesses $618 million on their energy bills. It has also created thousands of jobs along with more than $2.9 billion in regional economic growth. What’s more, by reducing emissions, it has prevented more than 8,000 asthma attacks, 39,000 lost work days, and 300 premature deaths.
Thanks to this new law and the regulations that will follow it later this year (more on those below), Maine residents will continue to reap these benefits.
Updating RGGI to See Further Benefits
Over the last two years, the nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states that comprise RGGI have been reviewing the program to assess and improve its design and operation. The successful program was set to expire in 2021, so they updated the program, including new targets for reducing climate-damaging emissions from the power sector for the period between 2021 and 2030. Last December, the RGGI states announced their update. Called the “Model Rule,” it serves as the example for what the participating states will each implement. Among other things, the rule requires an additional 30% reduction of polluting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants between 2021 and 2030.
Because Maine and New Hampshire originally enacted RGGI through both their own regulations and through legislation, those two states must amend their original legislation whenever the program is updated. After these most recent changes, all of the RGGI states now have until January 1, 2021, to implement the updated Model Rule in order to continue to participate in the program.
The Next Steps for Updating RGGI in Maine
CLF worked to create and enact RGGI a decade ago, and we supported this latest effort in Maine to update its legislation for participating in the successful program. With the legislature’s passage of the bill, Maine has completed one of the two essential steps to update the state’s RGGI rules. The next step is for the Department of Environmental Protection – the agency responsible for administering RGGI in Maine – to enact regulations incorporating the updated Model Rule. This process is expected to unfold this spring and summer, and CLF will continue to be actively engaged throughout.
RGGI has proven itself a valuable tool in helping to cut climate-damaging emissions in the northeastern United States. It’s also helped to prove that we can move away from dirty fossil fuels while still growing our economy and protecting the health and well-being of our families.