Climate 411

How RGGI cuts carbon and costs

This summer, electricity bills across the U.S. are poised to climb higher as a consequence of volatile fossil fuel costs and climate change impacts like extreme heat.

Rising natural gas prices, affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are expected to drive up costs in the U.S., including in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia where a significant number of households and businesses are reliant on natural gas for electricity. On top of this, extreme heat around the country is expected to drive up demand as people work to cool down with more air-conditioning use while heat, storms and other climate change-fueled impacts continue to increase the risk of blackouts.

In short, this summer is showing us the value of moving toward a clean, reliable and resilient power sector. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based, multi-state climate program throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, has been driving progress on a cleaner power sector for over a decade now. Since the program began in 2008, RGGI states have reduced carbon pollution from power plants by over 50% and increased renewable energy generation by 73%.

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Why RGGI is a Good Deal for Virginians

Solar panels surrounded by picturesque scenery.

With unprecedented droughts, wildfires, floods and heat waves impacting communities nationwide, it’s clear that climate change is not a threat in some distant future – we’re dealing with its ramifications today. Virginians know this well, having experienced eight different billion-dollar disaster events (three tropical cyclones, four severe storms, and one winter storm) in 2021 alone. Consequently, it’s imperative that we act immediately to address the climate crisis. Virginia took a major step toward doing just that by linking to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2021 – a step Governor Youngkin has, alarmingly, indicated he wants to reverse.

Leaving RGGI risks derailing Virginia from continued progress to reduce climate pollution and will eliminate funds for existing programs that help protect Virginians from devastating floods and that save electric ratepayers money by lowering their energy usage.

Act now: Tell Gov. Youngkin to keep Virginia in RGGI

RGGI is a proven program for combating climate pollution while investing in solutions that will make Virginia more resilient. Here are five reasons that make clear RGGI is a good deal for Virginia.

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Shifting toward clean energy can lower costs for Pennsylvanians

Thermostat for heating

As fall leaves are rapidly disappearing and temperatures drop, families across Pennsylvania are starting to turn up home thermostats to keep warm. Ensuring affordable, reliable energy is available should be an absolutely critical priority for policymakers. This winter, however, is expected to bring higher than usual energy prices that could hit U.S. households in colder regions like the Northeast and upper Midwest especially hard. And it reveals how American families and businesses bear the brunt of wild price fluctuations in fossil fuels and deserve more stable, cleaner sources of energy. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), households that primarily use natural gas for space heating will spend an average of 30% more on heating this winter than last year. This is especially concerning for a state like Pennsylvania where over half of households use natural gas to heat their homes, and much of Pennsylvania’s electricity is powered by natural gas-fired power plants, meaning even those who don’t use natural gas fuel directly for heating may still be affected by rising prices.

With families, communities and businesses worried about costs for heat and electricity, many are capitalizing on this fear to spread disinformation about the causes. So, what exactly is driving these spikes? And how can we avoid this situation in the future? 

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What Pennsylvania’s move toward a clean energy future means for the region

This blog was co-authored by Taylor Bacon, Analyst with the U.S. Clean Air team at EDF.

Editor’s note: This post was last updated Sept 27, 2021.

As Pennsylvania moves forward with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), questions are being raised about how this will impact Pennsylvania’s neighbors: West Virginia and Ohio. Will coal plant jobs be lost to these states? And will emissions from Pennsylvania shift there too?

While ultimately, to achieve our climate goals, we need power generation across the country covered by a program that reduces carbon pollution, Pennsylvania’s move to tackle carbon pollution now — before states like Ohio and West Virginia — will help the state prepare to be a leader in the zero carbon future and protect the communities that are impacted by the energy transition already underway.

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Pennsylvania just reached a critical milestone on the path to a clean energy future

Somerset Wind Farm

Four of the wind turbines on the Somerset Wind Farm, in Somerset, Pennsylvania. PC: Jeff Kubina.

This week, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released its final rule to link the state with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce carbon pollution from the state’s power plants starting in 2022. This is a momentous step, not only for Pennsylvania, but for the country’s fight against climate change: The Keystone state has the fourth dirtiest power sector in the nation in terms of carbon pollution. With this action, Governor Tom Wolf is showing much-needed leadership on cutting carbon pollution from the power sector, which is a critical piece of achieving the state’s climate goals along with a strong and comprehensive rule to cut methane emissions from existing sources of oil and gas infrastructure in the state.

The final rule stems from a 2019 Executive Order issued by Governor Wolf that came after years of inaction by the legislature to address the substantial air pollution coming from the state’s power sector. The next major step is for the rule to be approved by the Environmental Quality Board in the third quarter of this year and it will then move through the final steps necessary before publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Despite misleading criticisms levied at the program, there is strong support in Pennsylvania for moving forward with limits on carbon, with 79% of Pennsylvanians supporting strict limits on carbon pollution.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

Why Pennsylvania Should Move Forward with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Now

Last year tied for the hottest year on record. Increasing heat and flood risks from climate change, the result of historical and ongoing emissions of heat-trapping gases, threaten infrastructure, agriculture, and public health throughout Pennsylvania. The federal government, Wall Street, and Americans across the country have awakened to the challenge of climate change and are aggressively taking steps that move our country into the carbon-free future. At this point, the costs of inaction are too big to ignore: Every ton of climate pollution we emit matters.

Consequently, the costs of delaying entry into a program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are real – and alarming – for Pennsylvanians. The commonwealth now has the fourth dirtiest power sector in terms of carbon pollution in the nation. The decisions Pennsylvania makes have clear consequences for the health and welfare not only of Pennsylvanians, but the entire U.S. After more than a decade of delay to act on climate in Pennsylvania, there is no reason to slow implementation of RGGI.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed