– As Carbon Pollution Doubles, Advocates & Officials Look to RGGI to Modernize Infrastructure And Fight Climate Change

May 16, 2013

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2013
Travis Proulx, [email protected] , 518-462-5526 x238

As Carbon Pollution Doubles, Advocates & Officials Look To RGGI To Modernize Infrastructure And Fight Climate Change

Suny Ulster Program A Model For Enhancing Workforce, Creating Green Jobs

Stone Ridge—As scientists grapple with how climate change will impact the earth now that carbon pollution in the atmosphere has doubled to 400 parts per million, advocates, elected officials and industry leaders are pointing to the state’s innovative renewable energy program as the direction to take in modernizing New York’s energy infrastructure and fighting the worst effects of climate change.

The Cuomo Administration is currently implementing new rules on how New York operates within the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) coalition – including how climate-altering pollution from energy plants can be further reduced, and funds raised from the sale of carbon credits are used to buttress energy efficiency and green infrastructure projects.

To ensure New York moves to a 21st Century green economy, and that communities have the resources necessary to harden against the extreme storms and weather patterns devastating our aging infrastructure, the state is being urged to take the following actions:

  • lower the carbon pollution cap to reflect current power plant emissions;
  • develop methods to address emissions resulting from imported electricity; and
  • dedicate RGGI revenues to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Conor Bambrick, Air & Energy Director for Environmental Advocates NY said, “We are already experiencing the worst effects of climate change, and now that the carbon pollution in the atmosphere has doubled the state must prepare us against even more dangerous, erratic and unpredictable weather patterns. Through RGGI, New York can set the national standard on the production and use of renewable power. We urge Governor Cuomo to continue his leadership on climate change, and look to existing programs with a proven record of success in order to strengthen RGGI and create clean, renewable economic opportunity across the state.”

Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk (D-Duanesburg) said, “Governor Cuomo is to be applauded for his commitment to reducing carbon emissions and supporting the development of renewable and green energy technology. His efforts to strengthen RGGI and increase investment in energy efficiency will make New York a national leader in the effort to mitigate climate change.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) said, “In 2009, as Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, I passed legislation which created a dedicated funding stream from The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the Green Jobs/ Green NY program, helping communities and small businesses to create a workforce aimed at improving building energy efficiency. In order to ensure that RGGI keeps to its original purpose, we have to continue to direct the proceeds to appropriate programs. By allowing support for job creating efforts that also help the environment, we can ensure that RGGI does what it was intended to do.”

Jackson Morris, Director of Strategic Engagement at the Pace Energy and Climate Center said, “While Washington gridlock further delays real action on climate change at the federal level, Governor Cuomo and leaders across the RGGI region are leading by example. A strengthened RGGI will further illustrate how wisely reinvesting auction revenues in clean energy can save consumers money, improve the environment, and drive job creation and economic growth across the region.”

Valerie Strauss, interim executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York said, “Thanks to RGGI New York has been able to strengthen its commitment to investing in clean energy and energy efficiency, and as a result this industry is becoming an engine for economic growth. Here and across the Northeast, RGGI is a driving force for creating green jobs, sustainable energy infrastructure, and a healthy environment.”

Modernizing New York’s Infrastructure

The RGGI program has several projects which serve as a model for how New York becomes a leader in reducing climate-altering pollutants while creating jobs and opportunities within the largely untapped renewable energy sector. One program – the SUNY Ulster Clean Energy Technology Training (CETT) consortium – has attracted more than 2,500 participants across the Hudson Valley in the training of renewable energy and green technology construction. As a result, companies like SolarTech Renewables, Malcarne Construction and Hudson Solar have expanded their businesses by hiring local, well-trained and experienced clean energy professionals.

RGGI funds also played a key role in the roll out of the five-county CETT partnership between Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Sullivan County community colleges, which provides training and certification programs in building efficiency and renewable energy.

This year, SUNY Ulster partnered with a local green building firm to win an additional Green Jobs Green New York (GJGNY) grant to transform one of the college’s original buildings into a state-of-the-art energy efficiency building-science lab that will serve as a regional training center for students pursuing certifications in sustainable building practices. SUNY Ulster’s clean energy program is now one of the state’s foremost workforce training centers.

Dr. Donald Katt, President of SUNY Ulster said, “We are very proud of the work Chris Marx and his staff has done to make SUNY Ulster a leader in clean energy job development in the Hudson Valley. We are grateful for our partnership with NYSERDA, which has amounted to over $1 million in job training funds, including the latest RGGI grant for the new energy efficiency pressure house training lab. SUNY Ulster looks forward to continuing our collaboration with the state in a way that allows the college to continue to be a leader in efficiency and renewable energy training. “

Todd Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Solartech said, “The education and training we received from SUNY Ulster has given us the foundation and the courage to expand our business from solar module manufacturing to solar integration, resulting in ground breaking projects we have underway in the Hudson Valley and Long Island. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been an important tool for New York’s clean energy industry. Lowering the carbon cap and continuing to invest in important programs like those offered at SUNY Ulster are essential for New York’s energy future.”

Christopher Marx, Director of the SUNY Ulster Department of Continuing and Professional Education said, “NYSERDA has done a terrific job working with us and our regional partners to help identify training needs and develop programs to meet the workforce demands of local contractors and clean energy companies throughout the mid-Hudson Valley. Funding from the Green Jobs Green New York Program and other NYSERDA initiatives have made it so that even small mom and pop businesses can have access to top quality energy efficiency training programs.”

“SUNY Ulster has established itself as a leader in the clean energy economy by consistently identifying the region’s workforce needs and cultivating an exceptional pool of local, talented green professionals to get the job done,” added Bambrick of Environmental Advocates.

About RGGI: An $850 Million Opportunity

RGGI is a nine-state coalition which has capped carbon pollution for energy plants at 165 million tons annually across the Northeast while using money raised from the sale of carbon pollution credits to reinvest back into energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Following the devastation to the Northeast caused by Hurricanes Sandy, Lee and Tropical Storm Irene, governors of the nine participating states reached agreement to lower the regional cap to 91 million tons starting in 2014 (to better reflect actual pollution rates and ensure a ratcheting down of pollution in years to come) which will result in a significant increase in what has been rock-bottom prices for pollution credits in the past.

Since its inception, RGGI has raised $450 million for New York; with these changes, should the Cuomo Administration prevent any loopholes for dirty polluters, an estimated $850 million could be raised to modernize New York’s energy infrastructure.

The Cuomo Administration is conducting a regulatory review of RGGI, headed by the Department of Environmental Conservation, NYSERDA and Public Service Commission, through 2013.