As states look to cut transportation emissions, RGGI offers a model — and room to improve
As a group of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states begins to design a system to curb regional transportation emissions, planners are expected to turn to the decade-old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a model. Experts say the initiative can provide a good starting point, but that important questions must be answered to translate the concept to transportation.
“We can’t simply cut and paste [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] and apply it to the transportation sector,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “There are a lot of considerations that need to be made which are specific to the way we move people and goods.”
Read the full article from Energy News Network here.
New Jersey looks to rejoin RGGI to tackle greenhouse gas emissions
But Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at Acadia Center, a clean-energy research and advocacy organization with offices throughout the northeastern United States, said those fears are unfounded.
“The doomsday concerns about electricity prices and competitiveness in the region have not come true,” he said.
Emissions from power plants have dropped 51 percent from 2008, a year before the program started, to 2017, he said. Electricity prices in the region have fallen nearly 6 percent, while they have increased by nearly 9 percent in the rest of the country.
Read the full article from WHYY here.
As States Join Forces on Transportation Policy, Massachusetts Could Raise over $5.5 Billion for Transportation Investments
BOSTON – Today, Acadia Center released a new report illustrating the benefits of a new approach for Massachusetts to reduce transportation pollution while improving the system to better meet its citizens’ needs. This new analysis shows that, if designed well, a regional cap-and-invest policy could enable the state to make over $5.5 billion in crucial transportation investments by 2030, which would generate over 52,000 long-term jobs and $17.5 billion in economic activity.
“Massachusetts could generate tremendous value for its residents through a cap-and-invest program for transportation,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director and Senior Advocate at Acadia Center. “By capping transportation emissions and auctioning allowances, this innovative policy simultaneously creates funds for transportation infrastructure and improvements, reduces harmful pollution, and supports a clean economy.”
This analysis comes on the heels of a December announcement from nine states and Washington, D.C. that they will create a regional program to cap transportation emissions and spur investment in transportation improvements. Massachusetts has been a leader in this effort, from hosting listening sessions to gather public feedback to Governor Baker’s creation of the Commission on the Future of Transportation. Last month, that commission released a sweeping report that included the recommendation that Massachusetts lead the effort to create a regional transportation cap-and-invest program to reduce pollution and fund investments in public transit, rural mobility, and electric vehicle infrastructure.
Acadia Center’s analysis highlights the benefits that Massachusetts could achieve by putting cap-and-invest proceeds to work.
“This new analysis demonstrates that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and reinvesting the proceeds would be a driver of economic growth for Massachusetts,” said Emily Lewis, Senior Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “The cap-and-invest approach received strong support at public listening sessions in Massachusetts and across the Northeast, and these findings show why.”
To estimate the economic opportunity for a market-based transportation climate policy, the report examined a sample investment portfolio including commuter rail updates and expansion, electric vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure, bus fleet electrification and expansion, and walking and biking infrastructure. To determine how funds from this type of program are ultimately invested, participating states will need to develop a process that includes input from all impacted parties, in particular low-income and disadvantaged communities.
“Cap-and-invest programs work best when they are designed to complement other policies,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director at Acadia Center. “This analysis illustrates how cap-and-invest proceeds could bolster the Commonwealth’s existing efforts to deliver modern, accessible, low-carbon transportation options.”
Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
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Emily Lewis, Senior Policy Advocate
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In landmark agreement, Mass., eight other states vow to cut transportation emissions
One group that has long called for a regional agreement on transportation emissions estimated it could raise more than $5.5 billion over a decade and generate more than 50,000 jobs in Massachusetts.
“A cap-and-invest program could unleash billions of dollars to deliver the overdue improvements this region needs,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director for the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston.
Read the full article from the Boston Globe here.
Op-Ed: Maine needs a governor who will prioritize clean energy
After a protracted primary campaign and a long week of ranked-choice tabulation, Maine’s gubernatorial slate is set. As voters assess their options for state leadership, two intertwined issues need to rise to prominence: Maine’s economy and environment. To advance both, Maine’s next governor must prioritize a clean energy future.
The good news is that this future is close at hand. With smart energy policy reform based on proven results in other states, Maine can lower energy costs; save residents and businesses money on their utility bills; boost its own economy; grow its workforce with good-paying efficiency, HVAC and solar jobs; and dramatically reduce air pollution.
Read the full article from Bangor Daily News here.
Op-Ed: Climate policy could boost R.I. transportation
While the millions of dollars in VW settlement money is a promising start, building a clean, modern, resilient and equitable network of transportation options will take much larger – and longer-term – investments. A number of policies could provide funds and market signals to accelerate and guide transportation investments; one such policy would be a regional cap-and-invest program. In Rhode Island and regionally, a cap-and-invest policy can reduce emissions while raising revenue for local reinvestment in transportation improvements to better serve residents and businesses.
Read the full article from Providence Business News here.
Connecticut’s Emissions Reduction Opportunity
Connecticut’s transportation system – the network of highways, trains, public transit, and walking and biking corridors – is vital to the state’s economy as it facilitates movement of goods and connects people to jobs and opportunities. However, the system needs critical updates to continue to support the state.
At the same time, the transportation system is the largest source (41%) of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”), which must be reduced for the state to meet its climate commitments.
These two challenges of improving the transportation system and reducing GHGs can be addressed by applying a policy model that has been successfully used to clean up electricity generation and raise funds through emissions reductions.
The Cap and Invest Model
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) established in 2009 put a price on carbon emissions from electricity generation and used the proceeds to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Since the program began:
- CO2 emissions in the region have dropped by 50%
- $4 billion of economic activity has been generated
- Tens of thousands of jobs have been created.1
Connecticut was a founding member of this regional cap-and-invest program, and as of 2017 had spent about $201 million of RGGI proceeds on clean energy projects. As of 2014, the latest figures available, RGGI expenditures added about $245 million to Connecticut’s economy, created 2,200 job-years, and helped avoid $13 million in health impacts.2
A similar regional cap-and-invest program could be applied to transportation to raise revenues, reduce emissions, and stimulate the economy. To better understand this opportunity, Acadia Center looked at a scenario that reduced Connecticut’s transportation GHGs 4%, or nearly 4 million metric tons of CO2, by 2030 compared to the baseline scenario from EnergyVision 2030.3 This level of emissions reductions is aligned with Georgetown Climate Center’s estimate for market-based policy compared to existing Federal policies.4
Revenue and Reinvestment Strategies
Based on a $15/ton carbon price,5 the state could generate about $2.5 billion in revenue between 2019-2030 by capping emissions. Connecticut could allocate these funds in many ways to improve transportation and reduce GHGs. For example:
- Maximizing transportation GHG reductions by designating 100% of the program proceeds to emissions reduction measures, such as transit expansion, consumer electric vehicle and charging infrastructure rebates, and electrification of medium and heavy-duty vehicles like transit or school buses.
- Designating funding for infrastructure maintenance and transit operations, which could also reduce GHGs (by reducing traffic congestion, for example) as an ancillary benefit.
To provide an example of the revenue that could be generated by a cap-and-invest program, Acadia Center examined a 50/50 portfolio, with half of the program proceeds going to maintenance of infrastructure and half going to specific GHG reduction measures (Table 1). This portfolio is only provided as a point of reference, not a recommendation, and it does not include the full suite of activities that could be funded with proceeds.
Table 1: Simplified Reinvestment Portfolio for Connecticut’s Proceeds from Transportation Climate Policy
Benefits from Reinvestment
By examining the benefits of similar transportation expenditures in Connecticut and the U.S., Acadia Center has estimated some of the economic activity and other monetary benefits a 50/50 portfolio could generate (Figure 1). The total benefits from both tracks of spending are estimated at:
- $10.3 billion in economic output.
- $4.3 billion in added personal income.
- $11.6 billion in other benefits including fewer hours spent in traffic (not including the value of reduced GHG emissions).
- Over 3,000 long-term jobs created (i.e. not temporary construction jobs).
- $86 million in savings from avoided GHG emissions7 avoided costs.
Figure 1: Increased Economic Activity and Other Benefits from Reinvesting Transportation Climate Policy Revenues8
For more information:
Emily Lewis, Policy Analyst
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2See: Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Investments at Stake in Connecticut
3See Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 Technical Appendix for modeling details. The Baseline scenario includes existing EPA/DOT fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards through 2025.
4See: Georgetown Climate Center’s Technical Appendix Emission Reduction Strategy Analysis from “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation: Opportunities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic”
5Georgetown Climate Center’s analysis estimates a carbon price for market-based transportation climate policy between $5-$30/ton CO2.
6See: Economic Analysis Reports for the 1-84 Viaduct, the I-84/Route 8 Mixmaster in Waterbury, and the New Haven Rail Line, available in the November 2015 Briefing for the Transportation Finance Panel, and NREL’s National Economic Value Assessment of Plug-In Electric Vehicles.
7See: EPA’s Social Cost of Carbon methodology
8Other benefits calculated as present value. Output and income are cumulative totals over the project lifespans.
Viewpoint: Need for Mass. clean transportation policy
When the world convened recently in Bonn, Germany, for the annual United Nations climate-change negotiations, there was a particular focus on the role of U.S. states, cities and businesses in reducing carbon pollution. Massachusetts, along with six other states and the District of Columbia, announced a regional pledge to work together with stakeholders to “create the clean transportation system that the region needs to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”
Cleaning up and modernizing the transportation system will be a major undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. Massachusetts has demonstrated the ability to address similar challenges through innovative policies and regional collaboration that reduce emissions while improving the economy. The commonwealth played a key role in launching the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first multi-state program to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
While RGGI has helped Massachusetts make great strides in reducing electric sector pollution, the transportation sector still emits around the same amount of carbon as it did in 1990. Every year, pollution from the transportation sector causes asthma attacks and leads to preventable deaths, taking a massive financial and human toll on Bay State residents. Making matters worse, low-income communities and communities of color face a disproportionate share of the impacts from this pollution.
We can’t transform our transportation system overnight, but we can do more to invest and plan for a better future. From electric vehicle infrastructure to smart growth and improved public transit, we have an array of options to reduce pollution and increase transportation access while benefiting the economy. A RGGI-like program could go a long way to accelerate the adoption of these transportation solutions.
The RGGI cap-and-invest model has helped cut emissions from power plants in the region by 40 percent since 2008, while driving $2.8 billion in regional economic growth and creating nearly 30,000 jobs. Acadia Center analysis shows that RGGI has helped the region outpace the rest of the country in both emissions reductions and economic growth. In Massachusetts alone, these RGGI-driven emissions reductions have resulted in $798 million in avoided health costs.
Recent analysis conducted for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) shows that regional carbon policy — like a cap-and-invest program — would add billions of dollars to the regional economy, reduce harmful pollution and generate revenue for reinvestment in transportation improvements, accelerating the transition to a cleaner, more efficient, more accessible system. A recent report from Ceres and M.J. Bradley and Associates found that the benefits of investments in electric vehicle infrastructure outweigh the costs by a margin of three to one.
Expanding clean transportation options should be a top priority for our economy. Businesses want 21st century cities with transportation systems to match, and they’ve proven to invest resources and create jobs in areas that have them. To keep Massachusetts’ economy thriving, we must embrace clean transportation. Market-based solutions like the RGGI model offer a promising path forward, and we urge Governor Baker and his peers across the region to act swiftly in establishing such a program.
Mindy Lubber is president and CEO of Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization. Daniel L. Sosland is president and executive director of Acadia Center, a nonprofit, research and advocacy organization.
Is cap and trade the climate solution? The jury’s still out
Acadia Center Policy Analyst Jordan Stutt said the most impressive thing about RGGI is that it has proved “ambitious emissions reductions” and “economic growth” can be achieved together. “A major part of that is the benefits from the reinvestment of auction proceeds,” he told Utility Dive.
Read the full article from Utility Dive here.
New Regional Initiative — RGGI for Transportation Sector
“Working together across state and party lines, states can improve their transportation systems, reduce pollution, and improve mobility and transportation choice for consumers,’’ said Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center, a nonprofit working for clean energy.
Read the full article from NJ Spotlight here.