Northeast States to Hold Second Permit Auction for Landmark Regional Cap-and-Trade System to Curb Global Warming

For Immediate Release

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Contact: 

Emily Robinson, 202-331-5458

Northeast States to Hold Second Permit Auction for Landmark Regional Cap-and-Trade System to Curb Global Warming

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a partnership among 10 Northeastern states to reduce global warming emissions, tomorrow will conduct its second auction of carbon-dioxide-emission permits under a mandatory cap-and-trade system. RGGI covers electric power plants located in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The program goes into effect on January 1.

"During a holiday season that hasn't featured a lot of good news, this second RGGI auction will be a cup of good cheer," said Ned Raynolds, UCS Northeast climate policy coordinator. "With all 10 states participating this time and more allowances being sold, the auction will generate millions that states can reinvest in clean energy projects that are good for the economy, and the planet."

The RGGI program will cap the total emissions from electricity plants in the 10 states at the same level through 2014 and then cut total emissions 10 percent by 2019. Each of the 233 plants in the region will have to obtain a permit, known as an allowance, for each ton of carbon dioxide it emits. The first quarterly auction for these allowances, held in September, had 61 participants and sold 12.5 million allowances. At $3.07 per allowance, the auction yielded $38.5 million for participating states.

"Two weeks from today, years of innovation, negotiation and cooperation will pay off in a new era for U.S. climate policy," said Raynolds. "The Northeast is blazing a trail with its RGGI cap-and-trade program, and we would like to see the rest of the nation follow in its path."

The RGGI program includes several provisions that set key precedents for a national cap-and-trade program, Raynolds said. The RGGI states are auctioning virtually all of the permits instead of giving them away for free. They also plan to spend auction revenue on programs that help homeowners, businesses and industries make their buildings more energy efficient, and on initiatives that support the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

"Energy efficiency and clean energy investments from auction revenues will help Northeastern states cut their electricity consumption and pollution," said Raynolds. "Those investments also will generate local jobs, keep energy costs affordable, and help shield ratepayers from energy market volatility."

UCS cautions, however, that interstate electricity sales could undermine some of RGGI's effectiveness if the 10 states fail to prevent utilities from importing more coal-fired electricity generated outside the RGGI region. UCS will release a report on Friday, December 19, that describes the magnitude of the problem as well as what states can do to address it.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.

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