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Ben Hellerstein,
Environment Massachusetts

Proposals to strengthen pollution control program fall short

For Immediate Release

Boston – This week, Massachusetts and other northeastern states presented three possible options for strengthening the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This program limits dangerous pollution from power plants in Massachusetts and across the region, helping to slow the warming of our planet and clean up our air. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

A coalition of advocates, health professionals, businesses and local elected officials have been calling for the states to double the strength of the program and cut pollution in half by 2030 from today’s levels. While two of the proposals put forward today would make the program slightly stronger, all three fall short of what needs to happen.

Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, made the following statement in response:

“Our climate can’t wait. We need Governor Charlie Baker to do more to cut pollution.

2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. In 2015, we had 92 days in the Boston area when our air was unhealthy to breathe.

To put the brakes on this crisis, we need to quickly shift away from dirty fuels like coal and gas, and move to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The proposals put forward this week don’t do enough to protect our health, speed our transition to clean energy, or to help us reach our climate goals. We need to do more, faster.”

When it comes to cutting pollution, going bigger is better. A recent Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center report shows that Governor Baker and leaders of other states could cut pollution in half below today's levels and invest twice as much in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Doubling the strength of the program would avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over a decade, compared to keeping the program on its current trajectory. That is the equivalent of making more than 1 million homes run entirely on solar power.

It would also help the region invest twice as much in clean energy — on the order of $19 billion over ten years, or enough to weatherize more than 7 million homes, the equivalent of every household in New York State.

“These benefits are not just for the climate, they are also for public health,” added Dr. Jonathan Buonocore, Program Leader on Climate, Energy and Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This means less asthma and heart attacks, fewer people going to the hospital for respiratory and heart disease, less people missing school and work, and lower risk of death.”

Choosing a less ambitious proposal would mean fewer benefits.

Going forward, the states should include a scenario where the limit on pollution declines by 5 percent of 2020 levels per year (double the strength of the current program).

“Given the massive benefits the program has delivered to date and can deliver in the future,” said Hellerstein, “why would Governor Baker settle for anything less than the best option? We have the tools to secure our health, our climate and our future. We just need Governor Baker to use them.”

The states will hold a webinar to discuss policy proposals and modeling results on April 20, 2017 at 10:00 AM ET.

Citizens can submit comments about the future of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative here, or by email to info@rggi.org by 5 PM Eastern Time on April 27, 2017.

A final decision could come in a matter of months.