The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative works. That’s the conclusion of a new, independent review of RGGI by the Analysis Group.
Undertaken three years ago by 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, RGGI was designed to:
- Cut the air pollution from power plants that threatens our kids’ health and our increasingly fragile atmosphere
- Create good-paying jobs that can’t be shipped overseas
- Spur energy innovation
- Lower energy costs to consumers and businesses
RGGI works by charging power plants for the amount of pollution they produce. Then, it invests that money in energy-efficiency initiatives, community clean-energy projects and financial assistance that helps low-income customers pay their electric bills.
Importantly, the Analysis Group found that at the same time it helped bring down air pollution rates across our region, RGGI created more than 16,000 job-years of work. (A job-year is just what it sounds like—a year’s worth of work.) The jobs RGGI has created have gone to many of our unemployed neighbors: out-of-work construction workers who now perform energy retrofits on homes; engineers who conduct energy audits that save businesses money they can then use for payroll; installers who put solar panels on roofs.
In states like New Jersey, which have diverted RGGI money into their general funds to close budget gaps, those jobs are also for “workers in state funded-programs”—like schools and emergency services departments—“that might have been cut had a state not used RGGI funds to close budget gaps,” the Analysis Group reports.
Moreover, because the energy-efficiency measures the program has helped implement have reduced overall demand for energy in the region, the average family saw its home energy bills fall by more than $100 a year. That’s a big chunk of change. “These savings stay in the pockets of electricity users directly,” the study authors conclude. Businesses and industry, because of their size, save even more.
The $912 million power plants have paid into RGGI in the last three years will result in $1.6 billion dollars worth of economic benefits. That’s almost a 2-for-1 investment. If only my retirement account had that rate of return! By contrast, the authors note, there would have been no return had power plants simply held on to that money.
By implementing energy efficiency measures here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, RGGI has helped keep in the region $765 million we would have shipped far away to import fossil fuels. And, significantly, RGGI created incentives for power-plant owners to cut pollution. “RGGI afforded a competitive advantage to power plants with lower CO2 emissions,” the authors found.
Critics, including New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie and a host of climate-change deniers funded by oil billionaires David and Charles Koch among others, have charged that RGGI has increased energy costs and burdened the economy; that RGGI is a failure. The Analysis Group report proves nothing could be farther from the truth.
This independent study confirmed what we already knew here in the Northeast: RGGI works. The plan, initiated by a group of bi-partisan governors led by New York’s Republican Gov. George Pataki, is proof that when we put politics aside, we can work together to stop air pollution and protect our kids health while creating jobs, not killing them. Remember that the next time a fossil-fuel-industry-funded politician tries telling you otherwise.
Now we need policy-makers to follow suit and keeping delivering RGGI’s benefits to residents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.