Budget Update: RGGI Raid

Environmental Advocates and the Business Council agree: don’t raid RGGI

In the absence of a statewide climate action plan, New York does not have much to hang its hat on. Which is what makes proposals to raid the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in this year’s budget so disappointing. In 2015, knowing the impacts our communities have felt as a result of climate change, state leaders should be looking for ways to build upon RGGI’s success, not compromise it.

A broad coalition including Environmental Advocates, the American Lung Association, the Center for Working Families and many more organizations have partnered to stop the RGGI raid. The state Business Council also opposes the raid, as does Newsday and the Independent Power Producers of New York, Inc. The Assembly has rejected this bad plan, and we need legislators in both houses and on both sides of the aisle to ensure it does not proceed.

RGGI works

RGGI is one of the most innovative climate programs in the country. While people might not be familiar with RGGI’s name, or its operations, there is a very good chance their community has benefitted from its work.

It is a partnership of nine Northeast states, working together to cap climate-altering emissions by auctioning pollution credits – the money raised from those credits is then reinvested back into our economy through the development of clean energy and energy efficiency programs. An important milestone was crossed as this month’s auction brought revenue for the participating states to more than $2 billion.

That’s a lot of money, and it’s why this isn’t the first time RGGI has been seen as an easy money grab. But the impacts of these kinds of sweeps is bad for our economy, environment and communities.

Every single county in New York state is home to RGGI projects, with thousands statewide covering everything from the installation of solar panels on schools, college and community centers to job training programs that are preparing workers for the clean energy economy.

Governor Cuomo proposed raiding $36 million from RGGI. Senate leaders proposed increasing the raid to $64 million.

Support the EPF, fully and properly

Environmental Advocates would love a larger EPF. Like RGGI, the EPF is a proven job creator that creates parkland, protects farmland, supports recycling programs and much more. However, increasing the EPF at the expense of RGGI is not a true increase… it is cannibalizing environmental issues. The EPF should be fully funded at $200 million, with support coming from its traditional revenue source: the real estate transfer tax.

When that tax dropped during the recession, the size of the EPF dropped, too. Now that those proceeds are back up, they should be reinvested back into the EPF.

New York needs a comprehensive climate action plan – a proposal that cuts carbon pollution economy-wide, and aggressively moves our state down the path to clean energy and away from dirty fossil fuels of the past. RGGI is the state’s first meaningful step in that direction. Raiding RGGI would cost us to lose ground.

For additional information, see RGGI: A National Model for Fighting Climate Change.