Boston- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announces that the Senate has passed legislation to secure the Commonwealth’s current and future participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by making the cooperative program law. Governor Deval Patrick signed the RGGI agreement last January, entering Massachusetts into a nine-state coalition plan starting in 2009 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from larger power plants in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region. The Senate took this action during yesterday’s session, the first of calendar year 2008.
Senator Downing said, “This bill provides actionable measures for directing industry towards more sustainable practices. The passage of this legislation will be a clear sign of the Commonwealth’s commitment to preserving and repairing our environment. I am glad to count myself among the supporters of this bill.”
Under RGGI, participating states will stabilize carbon dioxide emissions at current levels from 2009 to 2015, and then proceed with a 10 percent reduction by 2019.
The RGGI agreement established a carbon dioxide “cap and trade” program that sets limits on total emissions permitted from certain power plants in an effort to reduce the release of carbon dioxide. This agreement also requires those power plants to hold “allowances,” or a right to release one ton of carbon dioxide, to cover their emissions. Emissions allowed under the cap will be divided into individual permits and allocated by each state to the power plants. This is the nation’s first regional “cap and trade” system for greenhouse gas emissions and an important model for other states and the development of national climate-change policy.
Power plants without sufficient allowances to cover emissions can either reduce their greenhouse gases or purchase allowances from other power plants that have successfully reduced their emissions without maxing out their allotted allowances.
All sales will be completed through a regional market auction. Proceeds will be deposited into the RGGI Auction Trust Fund. Allowance auctions will be conducted by an independent entity assigned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
The auction fund will be used to protect municipalities whose property tax receipts might be reduced because of RGGI. It will also be used to promote energy efficiency and conservation, and also to promote renewable energy technologies.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.