- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - While 150 world leaders are negotiating a climate deal in Paris, nine Northeastern states are sharing $115 million from the latest auction of a regional pact that limits power plant emissions while supporting renewable energy and efficiency projects.

The 7-year-old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, called RGGI (REH’-jee), limits how much carbon dioxide power plants can emit and requires them to buy allowances for the amount they do emit. According to a report released Friday by RGGI, the 30th quarterly auction of allowances, held Wednesday, raised $115 million for the RGGI states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

RGGI is the first mandatory market-based regulatory program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions from power plants in the region have decreased more than 40 percent since RGGI was initiated in 2008, and the program has generated more than $2.3 billion to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the nine states.

“By investing RGGI funds in smart programs, our states have cut power plant pollution while reducing electricity prices, saving people and businesses more than $1.8 billion on energy bills through efficiency programs, boosting the economy by more than $2 billion, and creating more than 23,000 jobs,” said Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment New York, an advocacy group.

In New York, RGGI is a key element in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent while generating 50 percent of the state’s electricity by renewable energy sources by 2030. The program has also put the participating states in a position to meet federal emission-reduction goals.

Under President Barack Obama’s climate plan, the Environmental Protection Agency has called for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030. Industry groups and half the states are suing the administration to block the plan, arguing it will hurt the economy, shutter coal plants and eliminate jobs in power-producing states. Republicans in Congress have also moved to block the plan.

“With world leaders now convening in Paris, the attention toward reducing harmful carbon pollution is greater than ever,” said Tom Burack, New Hampshire’s environmental commissioner. “RGGI’s successful approach is reflected in the EPA Clean Power Plan, and serves as a positive example to the nation and the world.”

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