Mass. to rejoin N.E. power-plant emissions pact

BOSTON – At a news conference this afternoon at the University of Massachusetts–Boston, Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to announce that Massachusetts will rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Seven states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont – have been signatories to the RGGI since it was launched in December 2005. And Maryland is to begin participating by June 30.

At present, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only New England states not participating in the initiative, though both states had participated in the development of the plan, which calls for states to use a cap-and-trade system to limit power-plant emissions of carbon dioxide, starting in 2009. Gov. Donald L. Carcieri last month hinted that Rhode Island also may rejoin the pact.

The RGGI would allow power plants to buy or sell emissions credits. It also would allow them to use “offsets” from greenhouse-gas reducing projects in other sectors, such as reforestation or landfill gas recovery in any participating state, to account for up to 3.3 percent of their own emissions. (Details of the pact are available at www.rggi.org.)

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“This is an important step for climate protection, and a bold move by the governor,” Frank Gorke, an energy advocate at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG), said in a statement this morning. “It’s certainly good news for the environment that he is rejoining Massachusetts in this regional plan to start cutting global-warming pollution from power plants. And it’s good news for consumers that he appears to be getting the details right.

“It’s crucial that we prevent windfall profits for power plant owners by requiring them to pay for their pollution permits,” Gorke added. “That is the only fair and effective way to operate a system like this, and it should lower energy bills by expanding conservation programs across the state.

“Scientists are saying we need 75 to 85 percent pollution reductions by the middle of this century if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. This regional plan for power plants, one of the biggest pollution sources in the region, is an important first step. We’re glad it looks like we’re going to get this step behind us, so we can start down the path toward a climate-friendly future.”