by Dylan Voorhees, NRCM energy project director
Senators Bartlett and Martin, Representatives Koffman and Bliss, members of the Natural Resources and Utilities Committees, I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. I would like to express our strong support for LD 1851. We are pleased that this bill has emerged as a result of diverse and committed groups coming together to craft a RGGI plan that works for Maine. It is representative of the new consensus that is emerging on the issue of global warming and our need for wise action.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) has identified this bill as one of the most important steps Maine can take to reduce our contribution to global warming. In fact, this is not only NRCM’s conclusion, it was the finding of Maine’s climate planning process initiated by the Legislature in 2003. “An Act to Provide Leadership in Addressing the Threat of Climate Change,” led to creation of Maine’s Climate Action Plan, which includes 54 specific recommendations for reducing global warming pollution in Maine. Participation in a regional cap and trade program was the #3 highest ranked recommendation. Creating a carbon offsets program, which RGGI initiates, is #1.
Maine has made several commitments and taken several important actions, frequently in coordination with its neighbors, to reduce global warming. As you know, our first goals are to return to 1990 levels by 2010 and 10% below that by 2020. We have seen executive orders directing state agencies to curb emissions and a Board of Environmental Protection order to reduce tailpipe emissions from new cars and trucks (that was #2 in the Plan.) If we are to come close to meeting these goals, we need to address the power sector. RGGI, combined with investments in energy efficiency will guarantee a 10% reduction by 2020 from this sector in the most economic way possible. It is an essential and intelligent part of our strategy.
In 2003, when that climate planning legislation was passed, there was a strong call from the public for action. Four years later, public concern has increased even further. Maine people already are seeing impacts, and they hear our own scientists and economists tell us that harm to our environment and economy will get much, much worse if we do not change course.
Across the country and the world, leaders from all sectors are taking steps to reduce global warming pollution for two reasons. First, it can be good for business: reducing emissions means reducing waste, becoming efficient and more self-reliant. Second, government regulations are coming (they are already here in most of the industrialized world), therefore better to prepare now. If Maine joins this trend today, instead of being forced to by the federal government in 4-5 years, we will be positioning ourselves to compete in the new emerging global economy. This includes improving the marketplace for homegrown renewable power; significantly increasing investment in the lowest cost resource: efficiency; and taking advantage of new carbon-related business ventures like methane capture and improved forest practices. RGGI is a global warming solution that Maine helped design.
Energy efficiency investments are an essential component of this legislative package. We can cap carbon emissions from the electricity sector but we need to also have a strategy for how to stay under that cap. Increases in renewable power is one strategy. However one of our best, most cost-effective strategies is to increase investments in energy efficiency, the so-called “demand-side” energy resource. Efficiency is our not-so-secret weapon in dealing with climate change (and a host of other energy policy needs.) Maine has made some investments already, but we need greater investments and larger, more-cost effective ones. This bill will allow Maine to both ramp up efficiency investments in homes and small businesses, and with the revenue from the RGGI carbon auction, do efficiency projects at larger scales. Yet we cannot wait for auction revenues to get ready for the cap. Investments this year and next year will be bearing fruit in 2009 when RGGI starts, making transition as smooth as possible.
With increased investment in efficiency, Maine and the region actually have the potential to level our demand and even bring it down while simultaneously growing our economy. States all around us are reaching this same conclusion and passing laws like this one.
You have heard much more about energy efficiency, and the efficiencies of a free market approach. Stepping back, RGGI is not just a market system to regulate carbon. It is an aspiration, an expression that we are capable of taking on big challenges, taking action—carefully and deliberately—but taking action.
When we look back 10 years from now, we may identify this as the time when the country shifted. The Supreme Court recently declared unambiguously that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and that the harms caused by human-induced global warming are real. Supporting cap and trade are ten states in the northeast (Maryland just made it official by signing the RGGI Memorandum of Understand last week), five states in the west, Republican and Democratic Governors. Canadian provinces want to join.
This is an opportunity for leadership. You are the key legislators who have an opportunity to help put Maine on track to do our part in addressing the threat of climate change. We are pleased by the broad involvement and support behind the Governor’s bill that is currently before you, and we urge you to adopt this bill and pass it along to the rest of the Legislature. In so doing, you will be taking an historic step to boost energy efficiency, curb global warming emissions from power plants, and take a stand for collective action in support of a sustainable environment and economy.