One Region's Bid to Slow Global Warming ; Seven Northeast States This Week Agreed to Cap Emissions - amid Warnings the Move Will Trigger Higher Electricity Costs

By Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

One Region's Bid to Slow Global Warming ; Seven Northeast States This Week Agreed to Cap Emissions - amid Warnings the Move Will Trigger Higher Electricity Costs


Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A new regional effort by seven Northeastern states to limit greenhouse gas emissions is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

Either the plan outlined this week by New York and six New England states will push America toward developing a nationwide plan, or it will waste money and yield few environmental benefits, say those on either side of the emissions debate.

"We will use a market-based system to curtail harmful CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions, ... reduce our dependence on foreign energy, strengthen our economy, and take meaningful steps in the fight against climate change," New York Gov. George Pataki, who spearheaded the initiative, proclaimed Tuesday.

Others are openly doubtful.

"While the states signing on the dotted line will trumpet this proposal, the economic reality ... ought to be a bucket of icy cold New England water," says Frank Maisano, a utility industry lobbyist with Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington. "Now comes the hard part:" meeting the pact's emissions targets and hearing from consumers "paying even higher prices."

At the heart of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a "cap and trade" program that sets a fixed limit on CO2 emissions. The right to emit the gas then becomes a tradable commodity on Jan 1, 2009. Companies that produce less carbon dioxide can sell their credits to others, giving an economic incentive to cut emissions and sell, rather than buy, credits.

The RGGI caps regional CO2 emissions at 121.3 million short tons through 2014, then cuts them to 10 percent below that level by 2018. Some say the pact will cost households an additional $3 to $24 per year on their electric bills, although the RGGI governors expect new technology and energy efficiency to reduce rates.

Each state in the group - Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont - will get an emissions budget. …

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