New England is a model for reducing emissions — EPA official

Source: Kevin Miller, Portland [Maine]Press Herald • Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014

New England could be a model for tackling carbon emissions as the Obama administration pushes for national reductions in greenhouses gases, said a U.S. EPA official.

Curt Spalding, EPA administrator for Region 1 in New England, praised the nine Northeastern states for the progress they had made in reducing emissions. They have seen their gross domestic product grow 22 percent and have reduced emissions by 20 percent since 1999, he said.

The states are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which caps carbon dioxide emissions from power plants using fossil fuels and requires them to buy credits for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Credit trading generates revenue for energy conservation or home weatherization. The program offers incentives for power plants to stay below their caps.

“The first goal is to get the framework in place so that the kinds of continuous improvement experience we’ve had here in New England can happen everywhere,” Spalding said at an unofficial talk in Maine, held in collaboration with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Island Institute and Voter Education Brigade.

EPA proposed new rules in June that would force power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The stricter measures are a part of the Obama administration’s larger plan to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, with each state getting a different target for reductions. Maine will have to reduce its emissions by 13.5 percent by 2030.

It is unclear how the new EPA requirements may affect the carbon emissions policies in New England. Marc Cone, director of the air quality program at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said his department was working with EPA to get credit for the reductions Maine has already made to emissions.

Attendees at the informal meeting were supportive of EPA’s proposed emissions cuts.

“If we do not cut carbon emissions now, particularly from power plants, it becomes much more difficult if not impossible to protect ourselves from the worst ravages of climate change,” said Tom Tietenberg, an economics professor at Colby College. “The window of opportunity is closing. The time to act is now.”

So far, the New England states reduced power plant emissions by 40 percent. Part of that reduction is also likely due to cleaner-burning natural gas and a shift from coal and oil use (Kevin Miller, Portland [Maine]Press Herald, Aug. 6). — NH