Maine Passes “RGGI” Law to Cut Global Warming Pollution from Power Plants

Brian Barth

Colin Durrant
CLF Director of Communications
(617) 850-1722

On June 5, the Maine Senate voted 35-0 for final passage of “An Act To Authorize the State’ s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (LD 1851, known as RGGI). The Maine House voted 130-7 on May 31st.

Today’s vote makes Maine the third northeast state to pass a law that requires power plants to reduce their emissions of global warming pollutants as part of a region-wide “cap-and-trade” system. Vermont and Connecticutt have already passed RGGI legislation — altogether ten northeast states are in the process of adopting similar policies, and five western states are not far behind.

Together the northeast states add up to the seventh largest source of global warming pollution in the world and more than 30% of this pollution comes from dirty power plants.

This bill, which was introduced by Maine Governor Baldacci, was sponsored by Rep. Theodore Koffman and Sen. Phil Bartlett, and co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers.

“This initiative will reduce global warming pollution from power plants while benefiting every Mainer who pays an energy bill,” said Utilities & Energy Committee co-Chair Sen. Philip Bartlett. “We are helping to make Maine more efficient and grow our economy while protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.”

The bill would reduce global warming pollution from power plants by nearly 20% by the year 2019, and would enable Maine businesses to participate in a regional marketplace for emission reductions. RGGI can save electricity customers 5 to 15% on electricity bills, help protect against rate increases, generate an “energy savings fund” worth up to $25 million per year to help both residential and commercial energy consumers save money and invest in energy efficiency, and create a new “carbon market” in the Northeast, with opportunities for everyone from dairy farmers to high-tech companies.

“Efficiency is the largest untapped energy source in Maine ,” said Natural Resources Committee co-Chair Rep. Ted Koffman . “By encouraging Maine businesses to embrace energy efficiency, we make Maine businesses stronger and more competitive, makes jobs more secure and reduce the amount of money leaving Maine to buy fossil fuels,”

A coalition of business and environmental leaders worked with Governor Baldacci, state lawmakers, and the Department of Environmental Protection to craft a strongly supported consensus bill that makes Maine a model for progress in the region and in the nation in fighting global warming.

“Today, Maine has joined with most industrial nations and many states, by doing our part to reduce global warming pollution from power plants,” said Dylan Voorhees , Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The new law is designed to work for Maine , and our unique environmental and energy make up. Today’s vote will also allow Maine to move up from the back of the line of New England states in terms of investments in energy efficiency.”

“Passing this bill is an essential piece of the global warming puzzle for Maine and the other northeast states because it means we finally are giving investors, power generators and customers a price signal that directs them away from dirty, high-carbon supply toward clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Michael Stoddard , deputy director of Environment Northeast . “This can be the template for other U.S. states to follow and will inform how we deal with many other sources of greenhouse gases” added Stoddard.

Maine ’s Department of Environmental Protection identified this power plant global warming bill as the most important next step for Maine to cut global warming pollution. In addition to Maine , nine other New England and Mid-Atlantic States have signed onto RGGI, including New Hampshire , Vermont , Massachusetts , Rhode Island , Connecticut , Delaware , New Jersey , New York , and Maryland .

“This vote shows that Maine understands the problem and is willing to act; something we can’t yet say for Washington ,” said Melissa Carey, Climate Change Policy Specialist at Environmental Defense. “The legislature realizes that climate change policy isn’t just about saving polar bears, it’s about preserving the wealth of natural resources that have driven the Maine economy, and about creating new opportunities for growth.”

“RGGI may be known, in future years, as the event that marked the transition from handwringing to serious efforts at solving the problem of global warming,” says Steve Hinchman , staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Brunswick . “This initiative — with its focus on energy efficiency as the best means to cut our global warming emissions — is just the sort of investment in Maine’ s future that is called for in the Brookings Institute report.”

“Strong action like this is what we will need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming,” said Matthew Davis of Environment Maine. “Now that Maine has successfully tackled power plants, we must set our sights on transportation and other sectors of the economy.”

“After so many months of frankly depressing news about climate change, it is good to have such hopeful news to share,” said Bruce Kidman, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Maine . “This demonstrates our ability to respond to the challenges we face here and abroad in a way that respects everyone’s interests.”