Cynthia Giles, CLF Staff Attorney
Providence, RI (January 30, 2007) In a move celebrated by environmental groups, Governor Donald Carcieri used part of his State of the State address to announce that Rhode Island will join a regional program to reduce global warming pollution from power plants. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will use a market-based “cap-and-trade” system to cap emissions levels in 2009 and require a ten percent reduction by 2020.
“This is a major step forward in Rhode Island ’s fight against global warming,” said Cynthia Giles , Director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island Advocacy Center . “It will take bold action to curb our dependence on fossil fuels and RGGI will be a key part of the solution.”
The RGGI pact reduces global warming pollution by requiring power plants across the region to gradually reduce the pollution they emit. For each ton of carbon dioxide emitted, power plants across the region must buy a pollution “allowance.” Over time, the total number of regional allowances will be reduced, resulting in less carbon pollution going into the air.
“This is a huge victory for Rhode Island’s environment,” said Matt Auten, Advocate for Environment Rhode Island. “Gov. Carcieri’s announcement has national and international significance in the battle against global warming, but Rhode Islanders don’t need to look further than our own coastline and the waters of Narragansett Bay to understand the importance of this decision.”
Environmental advocates cautioned that attention must now shift to how RGGI’s provisions are implemented in Rhode Islandand other participating states. They pointed to studies showing that if states use the proceeds from the auction of allowances for public purposes – for example, to implement energy efficiency measures – the plan could result in reduced energy costs for consumers.
“It’s a great relief that Rhode Island will now be able to take advantage of the benefits the rest of the Northeastern states will see from this program,” said Denise Parrillo, Climate Campaign Organizer for Clean Water Action. “In addition to cutting pollution from power plants, RGGI also has the potential to cut energy costs for Rhode Islanders if the Governor and General Assembly make the commitment to invest in energy efficiency.”
With Rhode Island ’s announcement, all six New England states are now active participants in RGGI.