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Testimony: Northeast & Mid-Atlantic States can lead nation toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy


On Tuesday, stakeholders from nine northeastern states will gather for the first time after the Paris Climate Agreement to discuss potential improvements to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation's first multi-state program to limit global warming pollution from power plants.

Most states in the region have pledged to act on climate, setting ambitious targets for reducing pollution across their entire economies. Tuesday's stakeholder meeting will help solidify a path to achieve these targets and protect our communities from global warming.

Below are excerpts from the testimony of Travis Madsen, the State Climate Campaign Director for Environment America:

"This past December, the United States joined nearly every country in the world in signaling our intention to protect our children and communities from the worst impacts of climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement points toward a future powered by 100 percent clean energy, free from dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas.

A safe, clean and renewable energy future is within our reach. Here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, we can help build that future - and show the rest of America and the world what is possible.

Our region has a strong history of leadership on climate. For example:

  • We created the first multi-state program to clean up global warming pollution from power plants - the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That set a precedent for the Clean Power Plan, a national power plant cleanup program finalized last August.
  • Governor Cuomo of New York is raising the bar by ending the state's use of coal by 2020 and generating half of the state's electricity from clean, renewable energy sources by 2030.
  • Governor Malloy of Connecticut in December signed on to a global agreement called the "Under 2 MOU" - signaling his intention to join the world in limiting the impacts of global warming. ("Under 2" refers to 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Climate Agreement sets a goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.) Additional signatories on the "Under 2 MOU" include Governor Baker of Massachusetts, Governor Hassan of New Hampshire, Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island, Governor Shumlin of Vermont, and Governor Cuomo of New York.
  • Governor LePage of Maine joined the other governors in New England in signing an agreement with the Eastern Canadian Premiers to reduce emissions by 35 to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
  • Governor Markell of Delaware, plus the states of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont are working together to limit global warming pollution from cars and trucks. Additionally, Maryland and Massachusetts are working with these states to put more than 3 million zero-pollution cars on the road by 2025.

The next important step forward on climate is to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce more power plant pollution, faster. Our region should reduce power plant emissions to less than 40 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 - or more than 55 percent below today's levels. We should also continue to prioritize capturing the local benefits of power plant cleanup - including healthier air, better energy efficiency and a stronger clean energy business sector.

Moving quickly to clean up power plants is a critical ingredient in achieving our economy-wide climate targets. Clean electricity is the key to unlock progress in other parts of our economy, such as from cars and trucks.

We can do this - and more. For example, a recent study showed that the United States as a whole can cut power plant pollution by more than 80 percent in the next 15 years using existing technology, including wind turbines, solar panels and long-distance power lines -- without increasing costs. Our region has more than enough clean energy resources to meet all of our energy needs for all purposes with zero pollution.

The future impacts of global warming depend on the decisions we make now. Let's build on our rich history of leadership on climate and take the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to the next level. Together, we can help lead the nation and the world in building a clean, renewable energy future."

More information about the February 2 RGGI stakeholder meeting and webinar are available here:

With Environment America, you protect the places that all of us love and promote core environmental values, such as clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean energy to power our lives. We're a national network of 29 state environmental groups with members and supporters in every state. Together, we focus on timely, targeted action that wins tangible improvements in the quality of our environment and our lives.

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