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Massachusetts Joins Other States in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Announcing Plan to Reduce Emissions by Additional 30 Percent over 2020 Levels

On August 23, Massachusetts joined the eight other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in announcing a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 30 percent by 2030 relative to 2020 levels. The nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the RGGI counts Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts as members. Since 2009, the initiative has employed a cap-and-trade program to lower emissions, and the proceeds from the pollution permit auctions are used to support energy efficiency programs in the member states. This most recent plan would lower emissions by more than 65 percent since the initiative’s inception.

Coming after more than a year of negotiations, the new proposal would set a regional cap of 75,147,784 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, which would drop by about 3 percent per year until 2030. The RGGI will accept public comments on the proposal at a hearing on September 25, after which the group will conduct additional economic analysis and publish a revised proposal. From there, each member state must follow its own statutes and regulatory processes to meet the emissions goals.

The consortium has been lauded for its success in achieving carbon dioxide emissions reductions and extensive investment in clean energy technology. A 2016 report by the Acadia Center found RGGI states reduced emissions by 16 percent more than other states while energy prices fell by an average of 3.4 percent. The regional permit auctions have generated more than $2.7 billion in proceeds used to build a cleaner energy system, and healthcare cost savings from emissions reductions are estimated to be nearly $6 billion.

In 2008, Massachusetts enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires the state to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 10-25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and a reduction of at least 80 percent by 2050. As part of the RGGI, Massachusetts is well on its way to securing those goals, having reduced emissions by 21.3 percent from 1990 levels as of 2014. Since 2008, the state has reinvested $306 million from auction proceeds in various efforts to increase the energy efficiency of homes and businesses and implement clean energy resources. These developments have no doubt helped Massachusetts become the nation’s leader in clean technology, securing the top ranking among states for energy efficiency six years in a row.

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Thomas R. Burton, III

Member / Chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Tom Burton has helped to shape the clean energy industry by drawing on his passion for innovation. As a Mintz attorney, Tom counsels investors, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 100 companies. He also guides start-up organizations and accelerators to foster the next generation of energy leaders.