Broad support for new Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative bill puts Maine at the forefront
Press Release from the Speaker’s Office, Maine Legislature
AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers joined Governor Baldacci at a State House press conference on Wednesday to highlight a broad new consensus plan to limit global warming causing CO2 emissions in Maine, crafted by what may have seemed liked an unlikely alliance between some of Maine’s largest commercial and industrial businesses and leading environmental advocacy groups.
The 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 could make Maine one of the first states to take legislative action on the multi-state agreement to fight global warming, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or more affectionately know as “Reggie”.
According to Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings, the consensus between environmental and industrial leaders in Maine represents a breakthrough on the issue of global warming, and makes Maine a model for progress in the region and in the nation.
“Climate change is something that threatens our way of life in Maine and our economy, and that makes it an issue that should concern environmentalists and business leaders alike,” said Cummings. “The broad support for this consensus plan makes Maine a model in the global warming debate for what can be accomplished when we work together. This agreement will bring Maine people cleaner air, better energy efficiency, and landmark progress on one of the most critical and significant issues of our day.”
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.
The multi-state RGGI plan would cut emissions of the global warming pollutant CO2, by using a flexible market-based “cap and trade” system that would control the right to emit by setting an overall emissions cap, but would allow companies to trade carbon credits to meet their emission requirements. The free market system would provide flexibility to companies to reduce emissions in a cost-effective manner, while providing incentives by allowing more efficient plants to sell their allowances to plants that have trouble making reductions.
Rep. Ted Koffman, D-Bar Harbor, one of the prime sponsors of the new RGGI bill and the House Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, says the effort to reduce emissions also creates new opportunities for Maine
“We all need to do our part to help address global warming, and doing so provides an opportunity to create new economic incentives that can benefit businesses and the environment,” said Koffman. “Acting now will also put Maine at the forefront in discussions of a national cap-and-trade program.”
Maine’s new RGGI consensus bill would use the revenue from the sale of the carbon allowances to create a trust fund that would invest the money in energy efficiency projects for both residential and commercial energy consumers, helping to lower long-term energy costs and make Maine more economically competitive.
The consensus plan also includes a price “safety valve.” Under the new proposal, if the price of carbon allowances rises over five dollars per ton, any of the additional revenue would be returned directly to consumers through credits on their electricity bills, to ensure that the cost of electricity is not affected.
President Greg Sweetser of the Ski Maine Association, which operates several resorts and ski mountains, was one of the large commercial business leaders that joined the Governor and Democratic and Republican lawmakers to announce support for the new consensus plan.
“The Maine ski industry contributes more than $300 million dollars to the Maine economy annually, as well as providing healthy, outdoor, winter recreation to tens of thousand of Maine skiers,” said Sweetser. “Climate change obviously threatens our industry and we support legislation that is properly designed to mitigate climate change. This legislation, as presently written, is a step forward.”
Melissa Carey, a climate policy specialist for Environmental Defense heralded the Governor’s consensus plan as an important step forward.
“The Maine legislature will have the opportunity to make an historic decision this session. Global warming is a challenge on an unprecedented scale, and agreement on the terms of this critical first step is vital to the protection of future generations in this state we love.”
House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree D-North Haven, welcomed the agreement on RGGI as an important step forward in preserving the environment for the future.
“The RGGI accord is evidence that a lot of progress can be made through collaboration between states, across party lines and among traditional opponents,” said Pingree. “If there is one thing that all stakeholders can agree on, it’s that we have a responsibility to future generations to cut down on emissions and work toward a cleaner environment.”>/p>
The RGGI consensus bill is sponsored by Governor Baldacci, Rep. Koffman, Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, and co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers. The bill was referenced by the Legislature on Wednesday, and will have a public hearing in the coming weeks.