In a big win for New York’s economy—and for our nation’s battle against climate change—the Appellate Division of New York’s Supreme Court yesterday threw out a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel industry interests. The suit was designed to kneecap a 9-state power plant pollution-cutting program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The three plaintiffs who brought the suit are members of Americans for Prosperity, a fossil fuel industry front-group that is bankrolled by oil magnates David and Charles Koch. The Koch brothers, two of the 10 richest Americans, have used their vast wealth to promote climate-change denial and to attempt to sabotage clean energy efforts in states nationwide. In the past several years, the organization’s disinformation campaigns have targeted RGGI in an attempt to take it down.
But yesterday’s decision proves once again that misguided lawsuits—even ones underwritten by the wealthiest oil tycoons—can’t derail RGGI or its many benefits. And it reaffirms the strong legal foundations of our country’s longest-standing and most successful greenhouse gas emissions reduction program—one that cuts global warming pollution from power plants in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic as it builds our economy, saves consumers money on energy and creates new jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
Indeed, since RGGI began operations in January 2009, the program has flourished:
- creating more than 23,000 job-years (a “job-year” is one year’s worth of work);
- adding $2.4 billion in economic activity to the nine-state RGGI region;
- helping cut regional climate change pollution by more than 30 percent; and,
- implementing energy-efficiency measures that will save ratepayers of all kinds at least $1.3 billion on their energy bills.
As the RGGI states noted in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this week, “The states involved in RGGI are demonstrating that environmental protection can go hand-in-hand with economic development and job creation.”
Just ask Dan Kartzman, President of Long Island’s Powersmith Home Energy Solutions. RGGI has helped to increase the size of his business nearly tenfold in the past few years. Funds from the program help people in Nassau and Suffolk Counties pay for the upfront costs of making energy efficiency improvements to their homes – improvements that his company makes (such as installing insulation and high-performance heating and cooling equipment). In three years, Powersmith's grown from four employees to nearly 40, many of whom are formerly out-of-work construction workers or returning vets. And the homeowners have benefitted greatly, too: The company’s average customer with oil heat in their home now saves $1,000 or more a year.
In addition to allowing the environmental and local economic benefits to continue in New York, yesterday’s ruling is also a big win for the nation. As EPA works to implement new carbon pollution rules for existing power plants, other states should look to RGGI as a model for how to reduce dangerous carbon pollution in a way that also helps create jobs and economic growth. In fact, today, utilities, environmental groups and state environment and energy officials are meeting with EPA staff to make this case. They will emphasize the advantages that RGGI, and regional and state programs modeled after it, have to offer the nation as we work to meet President Obama’s important climate goals and finally set carbon pollution standards for the 1,500 existing power plants in our nation that produce 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
Yesterday’s court decision is a victory for the people of New York over the financial self-interest of wealthy oil tycoons. Thanks to this move, New York can continue reaping the economic and environmental benefits the program has been delivering over the last few years. And our nation can follow suit, as we get serious about tackling climate change pollution from our dirtiest power plants. After all, doesn’t every state deserve the same benefits that RGGI has brought to these lucky nine?