Don’t Water Down Massachusetts’ Global Warming Pollution Limits!
By Marc Breslow
(Lexington Minuteman – February 23, 2006)
Hurricanes are increasing in intensity. Glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting. 2005 was the hottest year on record worldwide. Our weather is becoming more volatile. All around us the signs of climate change’s increasing dangers are evident.
But Gov. Romney wants to water down the state’s leading-edge regulations to cut global warming emissions (carbon dioxide, or CO2) from electric power plants. Passed in 2001 by Gov. Swift, these rules would require the state’s six most polluting power plants (often called the “Filthy Five”) to cut their emissions about 10 percent by 2008.
These six plants account for 70 percent of all CO2 emissions from power plants in the state and 13 percent of all emissions in the Northeast U.S. Most of them burn coal, which releases twice as much CO2 per unit of electricity generated as does natural gas.
Romney says he is worried that the 2001 regulations will cause higher electricity rates for consumers and harm the state’s economy. The governor makes this claim even though the rules already contain a major concession to the plant owners. Instead of cutting emissions at the plants themselves, the owners are allowed to pay for other means of reducing global warming emissions that might be cheaper, called “offsets,” such as planting trees or subsidizing energy efficiency improvements.
But Romney wants to create additional loopholes for generators that would weaken the regulations. These include:
If the price of offsets reaches $6.50 per ton of CO2, generators would be allowed to purchase them anywhere in the world, rather than just in the Northeast states.
If the offsets price reaches $10 per ton, plant owners could pay a $10 fine to the state instead of actually reducing global warming emissions.
The Commissioner of the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) would have the authority to ease the rules even if the $6.50 and $10 trigger prices are not reached.
The current requirement that offsets have to be “permanent” would be changed to “permanent to the maximum extent feasible.”
The governor wants to make these changes even though $10 per ton is less than half the price that reductions currently sell for in Europe’s emissions trading market. Moreover, the state’s own data shows that the existing regulations would have minimal impacts on electricity costs, and that most of these costs would be absorbed by the owners of coal-fired plants. Based on the state’s data, MCAN estimates the impact on consumers would be less than $1 a year per person – certainly not too much to help protect all of us and our descendents from the ravages of global warming.