As power plant emissions decline in the Northeast, a group of East Coast states is targeting another source of greenhouse gases: cars, trucks and mass transit.
Governors from Virginia to New Jersey jointly committed last month to develop a plan to cap transportation emissions, likely by charging fuel distributors and using the profits to invest in cleaner alternatives.
They have been spurred by a startling statistic: Transportation produces about 40 percent of carbon emissions in the region, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The effort isn’t unprecedented: California already has a plan to curb transportation emissions, and many East Coast states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Since 2009, the initiative known as “Reggie” has capped the overall carbon dioxide produced by power plants and required plant operators to buy permits for their emissions.
Power plant emissions have fallen by 51 percent in the region since the program began, according to an analysis of RGGI data by the Acadia Center, an environmental nonprofit with offices in five Northeast states. States have used the permit proceeds to weatherize homes and to give consumers rebates on their electric bills. But the region faces significant hurdles in replicating that reduction with transportation emissions.
Brian Murray, the director of the Duke University Energy Initiative who authored a study of RGGI that found it significantly contributed to carbon reductions in New England, said the model makes sense for the transportation sector but may take longer to produce results.
“There’s a lot of different ways to achieve lower emissions from electric power. You can go from coal and oil to gas, you can go from all fossils to renewables,” Murray said. “Transportation is harder because people have the cars that they have and in the short term, you have to deal with that.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has led the charge on this new effort. He said in a statement that “reducing transportation emissions is imperative to combating the causes of climate change and meeting Massachusetts’ aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets.”
Now nine states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia—plus Washington, D.C., have committed to a “RGGI redux” for transportation. Participants are hopeful that New York and Maine also will join the group.
Although critics say market forces are mostly responsible for the reduction in power plant emissions, environmentalists and the participating states consider RGGI a success.
“The reason RGGI is so popular and so successful is that we’re using revenue generated from pollution and investing it back into solving the problem,” said Chris Bast, chief deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. “We’re going to be spending the next year figuring out how we apply the same concept to transportation problems.”
The details remain to be determined, but participating states are expected to charge fuel distributors for carbon emissions, rather than directly charging drivers or gas stations. RGGI similarly targets power companies instead of their customers.
Read more at: Original article