US senators from across New England joined environmentalists Friday praising a new lower carbon emission cap set by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were the only members of New England’s senatorial delegation not included in a joint statement of support. Maryland and New York are also members of the Initiative.
“Not only is this decision good for our environment, but it will drive job creation, strengthen our state economies, and continue to establish New England as an innovation leader for the nation,” said interim Senator William “Mo” Cowan of Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts is proof positive that transforming our energy systems and economic growth go hand-in-hand. While some states struggle with high unemployment rates and low job creation, Massachusetts now has over 72,000 clean energy workers, and we’ve created hundreds of new clean energy companies and technologies. This decision will continue to drive our leadership in creating a clean energy economic boom.”
The Initiative adopted model rules, which will need to be ratified by the member states, to lower the aggregate cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants from 165 million tons to 91 million tons per year, which is close to the actual output, starting in 2014.
“This is a positive step toward addressing climate change,” said Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. “Banding together through this initiative is an effective way to reduce pollution, save money, and reinvest those funds in energy efficiency programs, saving Rhode Island families and businesses money in the long run.”
Some have said the regional system should become a model for a federal system.
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is an innovative program that could very well serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. “Not only will these efforts protect our environment and the public health of future generations, but they will also boost our economy by encouraging investments in clean, alternative energy.”
Another senator said that the group should be replicated elsewhere. “I hope other regions in the nation follow the New England region’s lead by creating similar environmentally conscious cooperatives,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The economic benefits of the program on the region, which has no major fossil fuel reserves, was a theme. Proceeds from carbon allowances purchased by plants that breach the limit help pay for energy efficiency programs.
“I think it’s great that Massachusetts has renewed its commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions under this program, which will help protect our environment and provide critical funding for investments in clean energy,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “This agreement will help create jobs right here in the Commonwealth and strengthen our economy.”