Baltimore, MD – 546 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast, called on Governor Larry Hogan and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors to strengthen the nation’s best regional climate and clean air program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The groups, including MOMs Organic Market, Solar Mowing, and several health professionals from Johns Hopkins University, sent a letter to the governors asking them to “deliver clean air and a safe, healthy climate for us all.” Specifically, the letter calls for governors to “double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” to head off the worst effects of climate change.
“We’re on the right track, but we need to do much more,” said Morgan Folger, campaign organizer with Environment Maryland. “From Maryland to Maine, we can make America’s best regional climate and clean air program twice as effective.”
Over the last decade, the program helped cut emissions from power plants in half. In addition to cutting climate pollution, the RGGI program has created significant benefits for the region, including:
- Cleaner air. In its first six years, the program prevented 600 premature deaths, 9,000 asthma attacks, and 43,000 lost work days.
- More local clean energy. In the first decade, the program generated $2.5 billion for clean energy and energy efficiency. In Maryland, the Community Action Council of Howard County has provided energy efficiency upgrades to hundreds of families using funds from RGGI, including residents of the Shalom Square senior living complex in Columbia. Projects undertaken in 2014 now save beneficiaries a total of $70,000 per year on electricity bills and prevent as much carbon pollution as emitted annually by 70 passenger cars.
- Stronger economy. In its first six years, the program boosted the regional economy by $3 billion while creating more than 30,000 job-years.
"There's never been a more urgent time to tackle the climate crisis. With no leadership coming from Washington D.C., it's up to Governor Hogan to lead the charge. I urge our leaders to continue to strengthen policies that promote renewable energy growth and help prevent the worst impacts of climate change on our region," said Alexandra DySard, Environmental Coordinator & Partnership Manager for MOM's Organic Market.
"My home and business are powered by wind and solar energy. These renewable sources of power improve air quality and generate lots of good-paying jobs," said Lynda DeWitt, owner of Solar Mowing. "The future is not in dirty fossil fuels."
The way RGGI creates these benefits is ingenious: it’s a system that ratchets down emissions each year and makes polluters pay to pollute. That revenue—$2.5 billion to date—is then invested in clean energy and energy efficiency, which has led to healthier communities and thriving economies.
Over the next few months, officials from the nine participating states will evaluate options for improving the program as part of a review process established when the program was launched.
Robert Lawrence, MD, Professor Emeritus at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, “Our state has seen significant health benefits from this program - fewer bad air days and decreased asthma attacks - and we should seize this opportunity to deliver additional benefits.”
The letter also notes that the need to reduce pollution to protect our climate is only growing more urgent. In January, NASA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. People across the region are feeling the impacts.
On average, power plant pollution in the region have been falling by almost 5 percent per year since 2005. In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.
The coalition is calling on the governors to keep up that pace by lowering the limit on pollution by 5 percent per year through 2030 and address loopholes that undermine the program. That would double the strength of the cap, which currently requires emissions cuts of 2.5 percent per year.
“The good news is that Maryland has been leading the charge to protect our health and environment and shift to clean energy. Now it’s time to build on that success and make America’s best regional climate program twice as good,” said Folger.
Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit www.environmentmarylandcenter.org.