Senator King, U.S. EPA Deputy, business panel, tell audience cutting carbon is helping Maine
NRCM news release
- Facts about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)
- Twin Rivers case study
- EPA fact sheet about setting state goals to cut carbon pollution
- EPA fact sheet about cutting carbon pollution from power plants
- Letter signed by more than 300 Maine businesses in support of climate action
- Nine-state letter to EPA in support of RGGI
Portland, ME – About 150 people gathered in Portland today to examine climate change from a business perspective at an event put on by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. Speakers and panelists focused particularly on Maine’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which limits climate pollution from power plants and has provided significant energy cost reductions for Maine. The keynote address was presented by the Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bob Perciasepe, whose agency recently proposed national climate pollution limits for power plants. The EPA has proposed that Maine and the region can continue to use RGGI to achieve the new standards. Senator Angus King provided remarks about the urgency of the climate problem, and moderated a panel of leaders who provided diverse business perspectives on cutting carbon. “Countless scientific reports have sounded the alarm on global warming and right here in Maine we continue to see the impacts every day,” said Senator King.
“The facts are simply undeniable: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it poses a significant threat to public health and to our state’s and nation’s economic livelihood. The health of the world that our children will inherent tomorrow depends on the action we take today. Fortunately, Maine has been a leader in pursuing policies that reduce emissions and generate clean energy and new jobs. With the introduction of the EPA’s new rules, the rest of the nation should take a lesson from Maine and recognize that it’s in the interest of businesses to work toward a cleaner, healthier tomorrow.” “We were pleased to provide this event for businesses to learn about the important issues of climate change and energy,” said Chris Hall, President of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Maine really has shown leadership and innovation, and many of our businesses are at the heart of it. The RGGI program in particular seems to have nearly universal support, and when you hear about the economic and energy savings benefits from economists and PUC commissioners, you understand why.”
“Once again we find that cutting pollution can come right along with economic growth,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Climate change is such a serious threat to many parts of Maine’s economy and natural resources, it’s good to see that economic and environmental benefits of regional carbon reductions go hand-in-hand. It is even better news to see the EPA rewarding Maine for its leadership as it achieves national carbon reductions.”
On Monday the EPA announced a proposed Clean Power Plan aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants by 30% by 2030. Although limits exist on soot, smog, mercury, and other power plant pollutants, no standards currently exist for climate-changing carbon pollution. The proposal provides significant flexibility for states and regions to determine the best strategies to cut carbon from the power sector and specifically allows Maine and other Northeast states to continue with RGGI as the mechanism to meet the proposed federal standards.
The Deputy Administrator for the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, provided keynote remarks describing EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and recognizing the leadership of Maine and the region in tackling the power plant carbon problem.
“The proposed EPA rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants are important to Maine for three reasons,” said Charlie Colgan, an economist with the University of Southern Maine. “First, they would reduce Maine’s electricity price disadvantage compared with other parts of the U.S., enhancing our economy’s competitiveness. Second, Maine and New England are very well prepared to meet the new regulations quickly and efficiently because we helped design the model for the national policy. And finally, climate change is a clear and present danger for Maine that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.”
The EPA’s proposal to allow the Northeast to use RGGI under the new carbon plan comes amidst continued findings that RGGI is benefiting Maine and the regional economy. By law Maine directs the vast majority of funds received from the sale of carbon credits to funding for energy efficiency programs and grants. In 2011, an independent study by the Analysis Group found RGGI had provided a net benefit to Maine’s gross state product of $92 million.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine released new information at the event that examined the use of RGGI funds through December 2013. It found that Efficiency Maine had generated $257 million in lifetime energy savings for homes, businesses, and industry specifically from RGGI funding. This included $139 million in total savings from efficiency grants to large energy consumers such as paper mills and ski areas. Efficiency Maine is also devoting one-third of RGGI funds to a home energy savings program that supports weatherization and is saving average participants 33% or $1,100 annually on home heating bills.
“Maine and the RGGI states’ experience demonstrates that market-based carbon reduction programs achieve very cost-effective emission reductions and build state economies while growing jobs,” said David Littell, Commissioner with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. “Maine has made especially strategic use of RGGI funds to create very large energy savings. I’m pleased that the EPA is recognizing the success of RGGI, which means these benefits can continue for Maine homes and businesses.”
“Twin Rivers Paper appreciates both the financial support and the important mission that both RGGI and Efficiency Maine stand for,” said Tim Lowe, President of Twin Rivers Paper. “The recent grants enabled the Madawaska mill to install high-efficiency drives to reduce electrical costs and heat exchangers on three paper machines to reduce steam demand. Twin Rivers matched the RGGI funds dollar for dollar. These two projects enabled Madawaska to cut electricity demand by almost six million kilowatt-hours and steam demand by 40,000 pounds per hour during winter months. A clear plus-plus: reduce CO2 emissions and increase competiveness for Maine manufacturers.”
Panelists also discussed a range of climate and clean energy issues for Maine, from vulnerability of real estate to sea-level rise and more severe storms, to economic opportunities from development of local clean energy resources like wind and solar. “Climate change imperils Maine’s economy and culture, wherever you live and whatever you do for a living,” said Alan Kuniholm, a principal at PDT Architects. “As the easternmost state, with a long and productive coastline, we are particularly vulnerable to carbon pollution. That’s why Maine’s architects are designing for the future and asking the EPA and the rest of the country to help control carbon pollution as we are trying to do here.”
“Maine has some of the region’s finest renewable energy resources,” said Hallie Gilman, Associate Legal Counsel for First Wind. “First Wind is proud of its major investments in Maine to develop clean, renewable wind energy, which is both helping to reduce carbon pollution and provide jobs and other economic benefits for the state. The EPA has taken a commendable step to further cut pollution nationally, and we appreciate the flexibility it is giving states to pursue different strategies, including more renewable energy.”
“Maine and our region have demonstrated significant leadership on climate pollution and clean energy,” said Pohlmann. “Now is the time for the EPA to move forward with its national standards for power plants, and we hope businesses and elected officials across Maine—including our critically important U.S. Senators—will support this common-sense action that is good for our state, and essential for future generations of Mainers.”