Posted by Alex Kuffner in the Providence Journal on February 2, 2017
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- State legislators stood with environmentalist advocates on Thursday to mark the introduction for the second year running of a proposal to tax carbon in Rhode Island as part of a push to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The crux of the bill introduced by Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Jeanine Calkin remains unchanged from a year ago. It would still put in place a fee of $15 a ton on carbon pollution that would be levied on petroleum products at their first point of sale in Rhode Island, on electric suppliers based on how much energy they get from fossil fuels and on distributors of natural gas for household and business use.
But in recognition of the fact that Rhode Island cannot be an outlier when it comes to taxing carbon, the bill has been amended this year with a trigger clause. Neighboring states must adopt similar measures for the Rhode Island tax to go into effect.
"Our strategy moving forward is based on a regional approach," said Regunberg, D-Providence.
Efforts are underway already to introduce carbon taxes in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, according to Jeff Mauk, executive director of the Washington-based National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. With the Trump administration showing little interest in addressing climate change, it is up to states to step in, he told the crowd gathered at the State House in support of the bill.
"Now is the time for our state to take the lead on fighting climate change," said Calkin, D-Warwick. "We must be bold."
Seventy percent of the revenue raised through the tax would go towards direct rebates for residents and businesses. Twenty-five percent would fund renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and the remaining five percent would cover administrative expenses.
"It puts money in consumers' pockets to invest in solar, wind and energy efficiency," said Kat Burnham, energy program manager at Providence-based People's Power and Light.
Posted by Steve Ahlquist at RIFuture.org on February 2, 2017
Representative Aaron Regunberg and Senator Jeanine Calkin introduced carbon pricing legislation today backed by Energize RI, a coalition of advocates from the business, environmental and faith communities as well as legislators from neighboring states. According to Energize RI, the legislation “is designed to provide incentives for energy users to reduce their reliance on carbon-emitting fuels and encourage the development of cleaner renewable energy projects that keep Rhode Islanders’ dollars in the state and create jobs locally.”
The legislation would establish a new Clean Energy and Jobs Fund that will invest in renewables and efficiency and help Rhode Islanders lower their energy costs, financed by the fee – set at $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 – on carbon pollution, paid by the companies that sell fossil fuels in the state. The legislation is designed to go into effect only after neighboring states with a population of over 5 million pass a similar policy.
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” said Representative Aaron Regunberg. “2016 was the hottest year ever recorded in human history, and the devastating impacts of climate change are already being felt here in Rhode Island. Global warming is literally an existential threat for human civilization on this planet – and yet, we have never had a federal administration more hell bent on ignoring the problem. With Exxon running the state department and climate deniers at every level of Trump’s administration, we must accept that the ambitious climate action necessary to guarantee an inhabitable planet for our children is not going to come from Washington. It can only come from the states, and that’s why I’m proud to be working with legislators here in Rhode Island and across the Northeast to create a regional carbon pricing strategy that will reduce emissions and bring renewable energy and efficiency to scale in our communities.”
“Now is the time for our state to take the lead in fighting climate change,” said first-term Senator Jeanine Calkin. “This legislation will help us do just that. We no longer have the luxury of denying the facts. We must act now.”
Jeff Maulk, from the National Council of Environmental Lawmakers, brought messages from legislators from the neighboring states of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Massachusetts Senator Michael Barrett wrote, “We’ve been pushing hard for carbon pricing in Massachusetts and it’s incredible to see the whole region coming forward on this issue. If we are going to fight back against climate change we will need to do so together.”
Representative Jonathan Steinberg of Connecticut wrote, “I am very excited to be working to introduce carbon pricing legislation – modeled after Rhode island’s bill – in the Connecticut House of representatives. Your Connecticut colleagues applaud Rhode island’s commitment to protecting the health of all of us across New England by considering this carbon-pricing plan. Along with our neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, we hope to join Rhode Island in forging a regional carbon pricing strategy which will ultimately benefit our citizens for generations to come.
According to Energize RI, the program will not increase energy costs for the average Rhode Island family and businesses, and in fact, will reduce costs for all Rhode Islanders in the long term. the bill has been cosponsored by 25 representatives and 10 senators.
Posted by Tim Faulkner at ecoRI News on February 4, 2017
PROVIDENCE — A bill to tax fossil fuels is back again, and this time it’s designed to be more attractive to skeptical lawmakers.
The goal of a so-called "carbon tax" is to accelerate Rhode Island's transition from oil, gasoline and natural gas to local renewable energy. It’s a worthwhile idea, say proponents, because Rhode Island doesn't mine or drill its own carbon-based fuel.
Instead, Rhode Island spends $3.1 billion annually on carbon-intensive gasoline, oil and natural gas extracted from outside the state. A fee on fossil fuels would keep that money local by offering incentives to produce local energy, while cutting greenhouse gases and creating jobs.
“With Exxon running the State Department and climate deniers at every level of Trump’s administration, we must accept that the ambitious climate action necessary to guarantee a habitable planet for our children is not going to come from Washington,” said Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, sponsor of the Energize Rhode Island: Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act of 2017.
This year, the bill is designed to only take effect when Massachusetts passes a similar carbon tax. To do so, the EnergizeRI Coalition is collaborating with other New England states to pass fee-on-carbon programs.
“This policy would make Rhode Island a city on a hill when it comes to ambitious climate action, helping to inspire other states to follow our lead,” Regunberg said during a Feb. 2 kickoff event at the Statehouse. “Anyone who was worried about this policy making Rhode Island an outlier should have no reason not to support immediate passage of this legislation because it’s not actually going to be implemented until our neighbors step up and follow suit.”
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Connecticut and Massachusetts Sen. Michael Barrett are legislating similar carbon-fee bills in their states.
The fee works like this: a tax of $15 is placed on each ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases emitted from the burning of a fossil fuel. Power plants, electricity and fuel distributors, and gas stations that sell the fuel are assessed the tax. The money would be collected in the Clean Energy and Jobs Fund and “recycled” back into the state. Twenty-five percent of the money would fund programs for renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate-change adaptation. Thirty percent would be returned as a dividend to companies based on their number of full-time employees. Forty percent would be paid as a dividend to each Rhode Island resident. Employees and residents earn their funds via tax credits or receive a check if they don't file a tax return.
Taxed fuels would include propane, gasoline, kerosene, heating oil, diesel fuel and jet fuel. The fee would be collected at the first point of sale or distribution. A natural-gas distribution company such as National Grid would pay the fee annually. A gas station would either have the fee paid by its distribution company or assess the fee at the point of sale.
A study conducted last year by Regional Economic Models Inc. of Amherst, Mass., estimated that the fee-dividend model would reduce energy expenses for the average Rhode Islander, while costing an estimated $25 a year for higher-wage earners.
If other states follow suit, the fee would begin Jan. 1, 2018. It's projected to collect some $40 million in its first year, and create 1,000 to 2,000 jobs in its first two years. After 2020, the fee increase $5 annually.
British Columbia enacted a carbon tax in 2008, which is considered a trial model. Reports indicate that the fee reduced emissions and had a mild benefit on the economy. Much of the rest of Canada is expected to adopt a carbon tax this year. Ireland enacted a fee on carbon in 2010. Australia enacted a carbon tax in 2012, and repealed it in 2014. Chile approved a carbon tax in 2014, but it doesn’t take effect until 2018. Washington state defeated a carbon-tax referendum last November.
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” Regunberg said.
He noted that Rhode Island is already suffering from climate change. Ambitious steps are needed to save the planet from the impacts of climate change, but help isn't going to come from the federal government, he said. “It’s going to have to come from the states.”
The bill was introduced in the House on Feb. 3 and will be reviewed by the House Finance Committee. A hearing date hasn't been set.
The Senate bill will be sponsored by Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick.
“This is our generation’s moonshot and we need to take steps to do it right now,” Calkin said.
Posted by Peter Vail and Dallas Burtraw at Resources for the Future on March 18th, 2016.
Note: this article is based on a version of the EnergizeRI Act that does not include a $5 annual increase in fee, whereas our proposed legislation does include the $5 increase.
As the political likelihood of passing comprehensive national climate policy has remained low, many states have taken up the mantle. This devolution of climate policy has been further reinforced by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) efforts to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to develop their own plans for compliance with emissions standards.
Certainly there is no shortage of policy ideas in the “laboratories of democracy” that indirectly aim at carbon emissions by promoting technology adoption or energy efficiency. Currently, two prominent examples of subnational policies aimed specifically at carbon emissions exist: California’s cap-and-trade system and the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which also employs a cap-and-trade approach. Recently, six states have each proposed legislation to introduce a comprehensive state-wide carbon tax: Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. (Vermont has a second legislative proposal that is more stringent but has less support in the legislature at this time.) And in California, where there is a robust cap-and-trade program, some legislators have suggested a transition to a tax.
It should not come as a surprise that these proposals have been introduced by Democratic members of state legislatures, and that these states have a history of ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation goals. Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island all have targets to reduce their GHG emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, while Oregon and Vermont have goals of 75 percent reductions of 1990 levels by 2050, and Washington set a target of reducing 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2035. Furthermore, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont are all existing members of RGGI, already demonstrating political willingness to take policy action on climate change.
For RGGI states that also have carbon tax proposals, there is some degree of uncertainty about how the proposed policies would interact with existing policies. Only in Rhode Island have policymakers explicitly addressed this, providing that electricity generation sources covered by RGGI would forfeit only the difference between the auction clearing price and the tax level, so that their emissions would not be burdened twice.
Despite the similarities in political conditions across these six states, the designs of their proposed policies are heterogeneous—differing, for example, in terms of the pollutant covered by the policy. Historically, most policies have focused on targeting carbon dioxide emissions exclusively, as these are responsible for the majority of GHG impacts and are easiest to measure. Half of the states—Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—cover only carbon dioxide with their tax proposals. The others—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York—go a step further and also include methane emissions, which make up a smaller proportion of total atmospheric warming emissions but are more potent. New York also proposes to include other nitrous oxides and any combustion-related GHG emissions.
The stringency of the proposed policies also varies across the states. As highlighted above, the coverage of pollutants differs. All else equal, the policies of those states with fewer pollutants covered are relatively less stringent. In addition to the coverage, the price (tax rate) also determines a policy’s stringency. The initial price level varies from $10 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in Massachusetts to $50 per tCO2e in New York, with the other proposals falling in between. More important, however, is a policy’s price path, which determines how the tax rate evolves over time. The bills from Rhode Island and Washington both include automatic increases at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), ensuring that the rate does not get outpaced by inflation. By 2026, in real terms (i.e., assuming no inflation), the price of the proposed policies varies from $15 per tCO2e in Rhode Island to $185 per tCO2e in New York (see figure).
The design differences among the states’ carbon pricing proposals demonstrate the flexibility of a carbon tax, including the wide range of options for implementation, at any scale of government. EPA’s Clean Power Plan has room for states to use a carbon tax for compliance, although states that might choose this compliance pathway would have to overcome additional hurdles to satisfy EPA requirements.
Each state’s proposed carbon tax policy stands to raise considerable revenue. How this revenue is used will be vital in determining the outcomes. In a follow-up blog post, we will investigate how these policies propose to use the revenue as well as the implications for affected households.
Posted by Dave Fallon and Mark Murphy on Rhode Island Public Radio on March 11th, 2016.
Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy joins Rhode Island Public Radio's Dave Fallon to discuss a proposed tax on carbon emissions with the bill's sponsor, State Representative Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence). Listen to the short segment online at RI-PR.
Opinion posted by Karen Paley, CCL member, on Independence News for Independence Financial Partners on February 19th, 2015.
There are movements afoot to promote renewable energy in Rhode Island.
I know because on January 26 I slipped unnoticed out of the office on Jefferson Boulevard and drove to the State House to hear Representative Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, members of the Energize Rhode Island Coalition, and two business owners introduce a piece of legislation (LC 3475) that would put a fee on carbon emissions and return the revenues to the people of Rhode Island.
Supporters of this legislation say it will “create 1000 new jobs in the first two years, fund renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects, and provide rebates to residents to help offset increases in energy costs.
On the same day, as it turned out, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed released recommendations from the “Green Jobs RI” report, including “an extension of the State’s Renewable Energy Standard, which mandates annual increases in the use of power from solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean sources.
I point out these events because they are indicative of the kind of initiatives being taken up by communities all over the world since nearly 187 countries pledged to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted at the end of the recent Paris climate talks, "Markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low emissions and resilient growth." Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency now will support the wave of the future.
Posted by Mintaka Angell, February 25th, 2016.
What do Rhode Island and British Columbia have in common? Short answer: both have the foresight to pass legislation that protects both the environment and the economy. The only difference is that while Rhode Island has the opportunity to pass the bill in 2016, BC took the plunge eight years ago.
Luckily, that means that we can learn from BC’s example. In 2008, BC passed a fee on carbon that started at C$10 per ton and rose over four years to a modest C$30 per ton, totaling out to about an additional 7 cents per liter at the gas pump for Canadian citizens — offset by rebates and personal income tax cuts.
Eight years on, we have an excellent case study to examine the effects of such a fee on both the economy and the environment — and the results show a win-win for everyone. Environmentally, the personal consumption of fuel of BC citizens declined by 16%, while consumption in the rest of Canada rose by 3%, showing an undeniable example of how carbon fees prompt environmental stewardship. And this came not at the cost of the economy, but at its growth: BC’s GDP has outperformed the rest of Canada, with a growth of 1.75% from 2008-13, while the rest of Canada clocks in at about 1.28%. While critics may argue that its GDP may have grown even more without the fee, the results show at the very least the policy can coexist peacefully with an expanding economy. That’s not to mention the $5 billion in revenue that the tax has brought in, allowing for rebates in all sectors.
Of course, the Energize RI Act differs from BC’s carbon pricing scheme in a couple ways that will allow the Rhode Island bill to better serve Rhode Islanders. BC’s bill is revenue-neutral, meaning that the bill’s costs to citizens must be offset by cuts in other taxes. The Energize Rhode Island bill will instead put money back into the pockets of many Rhode Islanders through tax rebates, while using the rest of the funds to create a Clean Energy and Jobs fund that will build clean infrastructure to further secure Rhode Island’s economic and environmental future.
British Columbia showed the world that we don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. A carbon fee is not a zero-sum game — and Rhode Island, like BC, stands to win on all fronts.
Posted by Alberta Devor on February 10th, 2016.
In last month’s landmark agreement, international representatives at the 2015 Paris COP21 climate conference set out ambitious new environmental targets, such as reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C.
But a global agreement on targets will only get us so far: it’s up to individual communities to find solutions to meet these goals. One of the most promising strategies to reduce and offset carbon emissions is one that has been almost completely unused in the U.S. so far: carbon pricing.
Here in Rhode Island, we are working on our own local contribution to reverse the effects of climate change through carbon pricing legislation. The Energize RI: Clean Energy Investment & Carbon Pricing Act seeks to place a fee on carbon emissions and reinvest the funds generated back into the local economy through weatherization programs and direct rebates to families and businesses.
Rhode Island is not considering carbon pricing alone. In Vermont and Massachusetts, similar carbon pricing bills are currently being considered, and in the Canadian province of British Columbia carbon pricing legislation has been cutting emissions and benefitting the local economy since it was adopted in 2008. Rhode Island’s own Senator Whitehouse has also introduced a carbon pricing bill into the national senate.
Carbon pricing, which is supported by many well respected organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, appears to be turning into one of the world’s preeminent strategies in combating climate change. Adopting carbon pricing in Rhode Island would be an ideal response to the Paris agreement’s call to action.
Posted by Tim Faukner on EcoRI on January 27th, 2016.
PROVIDENCE — It may not be politically doable this year, but efforts to add a fee on all fossil fuels entering the state is getting attention.
For the second consecutive year, carbon-tax legislation was introduced in the General Assembly. This time, freshman Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, took the lead as the bill’s sponsor.
Flanked by five fellow state representatives, two business owners and an economist at a recent Statehouse press event, Regunberg said climate change is happening and costing the state money. Last year was the hottest on record for the planet and unseasonable weather, such as the 68-degree temperature on Christmas Day, is becoming more common.
“Here in the Ocean State, where so many of our people and businesses are located along the shore, we stand to lose a great deal from increased sea-level rise, more severe flooding and extreme weather evens,” Regunberg said.
A carbon tax is an ambitious approach to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and boosting the state’s renewable-energy sector. But its one that is generally opposed by business groups, which consider the idea of adding fees on all fossil fuels an unreasonable cost of doing business.
The bill, like other carbon-fee proposals, uses the tax to fund renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. A portion of the fee is also paid out as a dividend to residents and businesses.
A Clean Energy and Jobs Fund would be funded through a $15 fee on each ton of greenhouse gas emitted by fossil fuels sold in the state. A coalition of environmental groups, businesses and religious institutions, calledEnergize Rhode Island, is leading the campaign.
“We call for a bold response to set the state on the right path to meet aggressive emission-reduction targets that were set forth in the Resilient Rhode Island Act,” said Brigid Ryan, the coalition’s chair.
Such a sweeping cost aimed at one of the biggest and most influential industries in the country is perhaps why few regions have established a carbon tax. British Columbia has the most well known. Ireland and Finland also have tax-carbon programs. According to at least one study, the British Columbia program, which started in 2008, appears to have positive results, creating jobs and lowering greenhouse-gas emissions.
Energize Rhode Island estimated that a carbon tax in Rhode Island would create up to 2,000 new jobs during the first two years.
One of the principal arguments for a carbon tax is that it keeps money in Rhode Island that otherwise is spent on imported fuels. According to the Office of Energy Resources, the state spends $3.1 billion on out-of-state fossil fuels.
Last year, Rep. Daniel McKiernan, D-Providence, pulled his sponsorship from the legislation, after he concluded that a carbon tax would harm the economy. The 2015 legislation was proposed by Brown University student Solomon Goldstein-Rose, with support of other students and faculty.
This year, a broader coalition of business leaders and lawmakers are endorsing the idea. The sponsors of the legislation, as well as House leadership, say a carbon tax may not get approved in 2016, but it could be gaining acceptance and pass in the future.
“It’s a new idea. So new ideas usually take a little time and people to get accustomed to it,” House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told ecoRI News. “And (we will) let it go through committee and we’ll get input and we’ll let the process go it’s normal course.”
A hearing for the bill is expected in late March or early April.
Posted by Espinoza on Rhode Island Public Radio on January 29th, 2016.
A new bill that puts a tax on carbon has garnered broad support from environmental advocates, businesses, and religious groups. Supporters believe the bill, called Energize Rhode Island, will help reduce carbon emissions and stimulate the economy.
It’s likely no coincidence that State Rep. Aaron Regunberg from Providence introduced a carbon tax bill on his birthday this week.
“For me, I think that we all have a deep responsibility to think of the young people of Rhode Island – my generation, future generations,” said Regunberg. “So I think we need to be very clear: If we fail to enact ambitious climate action, we are condemning the babies whose birthday is today, who are being born at Women and Infants, to a dangerous future.”
Regunberg said a carbon tax bill would reduce the danger by cutting down greenhouse gas emissions – emissions that are disrupting the climate, changing ecosystems and affecting human health around the world. He said the state has made a commitment to do its part to reduce those emissions.
“We passed Resilient Rhode Island [Act], which says we need to meet certain emission reduction goals and we’re not on track for those yet,” said Regunberg.
Regunburg’s bill proposes a fee of $15 per ton of carbon sold in the state. The idea is to encourage companies to move away from fossil fuels. (Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has also introduced a carbon tax bill at the federal level.)
Opponents of carbon taxes argue companies will simply pay the fee and pass it on to consumers by raising prices, “which this bill addresses by providing benefits to individuals and businesses to offset those pass-along costs,” said Douglas Hall, a policy director at the Economic Progress Institute.
Those benefits Hall is talking about would come from the money raised by the carbon tax. If approved, the tax is expected to generate about $140 million in the first year. Most of the money, about 70 percent of it, would be returned to households and businesses in the form of rebates, which Hall said would make up for any cost increase on gasoline or utility bills.
“The Economic Progress Institute, formerly The Poverty Institute, we’re very concerned about the well-being of low- and middle-income families here in Rhode Island,” said Hall, “and that’s what was the nexus for us on this particular issue.”
The rest of the money raised by the carbon tax would go into the state’s newly established Green Infrastructure Bank to invest in energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy. Supporters say that would add jobs to those sectors. And they’ve marshaled support from more than 100 small businesses in Rhode Island.
Architect Ken Filarski, chairman of the Rhode Island chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, is pleased other New England states are proposing carbon tax bills, too.
“So it’s not just one state doing it but it’s a collective whole so that the region can become that economic powerhouse,” said Filarski.
Filarski said more businesses are starting to understand that well-designed carbon fees can help their bottom line. He points to major corporations, such as Microsoft, Disney, even Exxon Mobile, that charge themselves a fee for carbon pollution. They use money from the fees to make their companies more energy efficient and sustainable.
Forty state representatives have co-sponsored the Energize Rhode Island Act, but they still expect opposition from other lawmakers and fossil fuel companies.