New Environmental Regulations Benefit Frontline Communities

First Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) rule update in a decade will lower pollution, close power plant loopholes, and invest 35% of funds in disadvantaged communities 

Albany – Today, New York State adopted final regulations governing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that prioritizes communities on the front lines of climate change. Specifically, these rules will close loopholes that have allowed dirty “peaker” power plants to escape regulation; establish a lower pollution emissions cap that will continue to be reduced through 2030; and invest 35% of all RGGI proceeds in frontline, environmental justice, and disadvantaged communities.

Today’s action demonstrates the state’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with equity and justice as required by the State’s climate law—the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

Environmental Advocates NY, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, and many others have been pushing for these pollution reduction measures and calling on the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the agency that controls climate spending, to ensure the appropriate amount of funds are spent in line with CLCPA mandates.

The following statement is attributable to Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates NY and Annel Hernandez, Associate Director at New York City Environmental Justice Alliance: 

“New York State has passed the first test laid out by our climate law. Communities of color that are bearing the brunt of pollution will find some welcome relief under these new rules.

Investing 35% in disadvantaged communities on the front lines of climate change is a good first step that creates the potential to generate real, everlasting change, good green jobs, and a healthier future for millions. We hope to see collaboration between the CLCPA’s Climate Justice Working Group, people on the ground working in communities, the Legislature, and the State on future operating plans that will lock in pollution reduction and ultimately save lives.

We applaud Governor Cuomo, NYSERDA, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the many organizations and advocates who helped make this possible and look forward to working on expanding and implementing the standards of equity and justice found in our climate law throughout the region.”

Background: 

As a participant in the multi-state  Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New York sets limits on power plant carbon pollution. For each ton of pollution, power plants are charged a fee for emitting that pollution into the air. The revenue is then supposed to be invested by the state in energy efficiency, renewables, and other carbon pollution reduction programs.

New York’s climate law mandates 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040 and charts a path to decarbonize by industry sector. RGGI proceeds are critical to fund programs to achieve these emissions reduction goals. One of the key provisions of the law is a mandate that no less than 35% of the state’s clean energy funds be dedicated to initiatives that benefit disadvantaged communities. RGGI auction proceeds fit into the definition of clean energy funds.

The three auctions of 2020 have netted New York  $89.7 million, which under the state’s climate law would mean $31.4 million should be directed to frontline communities. The fourth and final 2020 auction results will be announced on December 4. Over the life of the program, RGGI has raised more than $1.3 billion for New York.

The DEC regulations can be found  here. The NYSERDA regulations are here.

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Contacts: 

Brian Keegan: 518-441-8339; [email protected]

Annel Hernandez: 347-495-0240; [email protected]