Posted by Steve Ahlquist on RIFuture.org on January 26th, 2015. See the original for video clips of the press conference.
New carbon pricing legislation, backed by the Energize RI coalition, was introduced by Representative Aaron Regunberg (D District 4 Providence) in the House chamber on Tuesday. The legislation “is designed to provide incentives for renewable energy use, encourage the development of cleaner renewable energy projects, and create local jobs.”
“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,” said Energize RI in a press release, “The Fund will be financed by a fee on carbon pollution, beginning at $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, paid by the companies that sell fossil fuels in the state.”
Traditionally, user fees hit members of low income communities hardest, but Douglas Hall, Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy at the Economic Progress Institute, said that this bill addresses that problem head on and to good effect. “This bill does a few things that we at the Economic Progress Institute think are important. A portion of the carbon tax will be passed onto consumers, including lower-income families, in the form of higher prices. The Energize Rhode Island Act addresses this concern, by providing rebates to Rhode Island families and businesses, ensuring they come out ahead. We have seen the incidence analysis of this bill and are confident that lower income Rhode Islanders will be more than protected from additional costs.”
Introducing the bill, Regunberg spoke about the economic, legal and moral responsibility Rhode Island has to take on such an “ambitious legislative proposal.”
“Economically, this is where the world is moving… Rhode Island can either be a follower, and get the least economic benefit from these trends, or we can be a leader for this country.
“Legally, in 2014 we passed the Resilient Rhode Island Act, which obligated our state to reach certain emission reduction goals. Right now we are not on track to reach those goals…
“And morally, we have a responsibility to Rhode Island’s young people, to my generation and to the generations that come after mine… by failing to enact significant climate legislation, we are condemning the babies who are born today at Women and Infants to a dangerous future.”
Small business owner Joseph Fernandes saw the issue from an economic point of view. “If you were to attempt to open a business today in many parts of our state, you would find yourself facing a whole new set of barriers that didn’t exist for my parents. You would be faced with the burden of having to pay for costly flood insurance premiums that will only grow higher. Climate change means your business is always vulnerable to an extreme weather event that could permanently close you down.”
The Energize RI Coalition sees their efforts as complementary to other state programs dealing with climate and energy. Ken Filarski of Filarski Architecture said the the clean energy sector of our economy is one of the fastest growing in the state. “This sector is already growing at a rate that is stronger than the rest of Rhode Island’s economy, supporting over 10,000 jobs and adding 1,600 more by the end of the year. Passing this legislation means more funds to install solar panels, insulate houses, and implement other energy efficiency measures. It means more Rhode Islanders working in a field that has proven itself to be both profitable and sustainable.”
Posted by Joe Baker on the Newport Daily News on January 13th, 2016.
Legislation being proposed by a coalition of regional organizations would levy a tax on all fossil fuels coming into the state, in an effort to reduce the state’s carbon footprint by encouraging use of renewable energy sources.
The Energize Rhode Island coalition will introduce its legislation at a Jan. 26 press conference at the Statehouse in Providence. Similar bills will be sponsored by Rep. J. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, in the House of Representatives, and Sen. William J. Conley Jr., D-East Providence, in the Senate.
Coalition chairwoman Brigid Ryan, a Newport resident, said the group is made of mostly environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and the Rhode Island Green Building Coalition. But it also includes Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light, a group of 20 congregations and faiths that have banded together on the climate-change issue, and the Cranston design company Filarski Architecture and Planning.
The proposed legislation would set a tax of $15 per metric ton on the carbon content of fossil fuels imported into Rhode Island and on all electricity distribution companies, Ryan said during an interview Tuesday at The Daily News. The money generated by the tax would be funneled into what the coalition has dubbed a Clean Energy and Jobs Fund, which would be distributed back to consumers and businesses in an effort to offset the expected increases in the cost of non-renewable energy sources.
After deducting 5 percent of the money raised for administrative costs, the fund would be divided by sending 40 percent as refunds in the form of tax credits to Rhode Island households; 30 percent to businesses in the state, prorated by the number of employees; and 25 percent into the fund for weatherization and energy-efficiency grants.
In 2014, the General Assembly established a goal of reducing the state’s carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. But the progress hasn’t been fast enough for the coalition partners.
“We need some bold measures to achieve that,” Ryan said. “And some of us feel even that is not aggressive enough.”
A study conducted by Regional Economics Models Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based public policy modeling firm, predicted the legislation would create 1,000 jobs in the first two years, primarily in construction of renewable-energy systems and in health-care industries, and nearly 5,000 jobs by 2040. It predicted the size of the gross state product would increase by $60 million in the first year and $250 million by 2040.
But the primary goal of the initiative is to reduce carbon emissions, which have been identified as the prime cause of climate change.
“We see the impact of climate change right here in Newport in higher tides. Everybody needs to take action,” Ryan said. “This is the kind of climate change action we can take (that will make a difference).”
The six New England states together with New York, Maryland and Delaware have joined together to form a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with the goal of gradually reducing carbon emissions from power plants. According to a 2013 story in the Washington Post, carbon-dioxide emissions from the region’s power plants went from 188 million tons in 2005 to 91 million tons in 2012.
This legislation seeks to take that even further, Ryan said. And redirecting taxes on out-of-state fuel companies into the Rhode Island economy will “benefit everyone,” said coalition member Mary Jane Sorrentino, who lives in Jamestown.
“Something like this can work so well in Rhode Island because we are a small state,” she said.
The coalition will need to emphasize those latter points if it hopes to win enough support in a state legislature where House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, D-Cranston, adheres to a “jobs and the economy” mantra.
Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, will be introducing the “Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act” on his 26th birthday, and he said he’s motivated in part by a desire to help future generations. “If we don’t make ambitious changes very soon, the kids who are born in Women & Infants today are going to be growing up in a scary world, with environmental catastrophes,” he said.
But Regunberg said he’s also motivated by a desire to boost the local economy. “We don’t produce any fossil fuels in Rhode Island, so every year we spend more than $3 billion to import fossil fuels, sending money to Saudi Arabia, Texas, Pennsylvania or wherever,” he said. “Instead, we could be putting that to work here for our local economy. From a macro-economic perspective, this makes perfect sense.”
The “Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act” would charge a “carbon fee” or “carbon tax” of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide on fossil fuels at the point of sale. That would generate about $140 million per year, and 70 percent of that money would be go to local employers and residents as “direct dividends” while 25 percent would go into energy efficiency, "climate resilience" and renewable energy projects.
J. Timmons Roberts, a Brown University environmental studies and sociology professor who is providing technical assistance to Energize RI, said carbon pricing has succeeded in British Columbia, and a similar proposal has been made in Massachusetts. “But we would be the first state to put a fixed price on carbon in the U.S.,” he said.
Roberts said critics might write this off as just another tax, but “it’s not like other taxes in that it’s giving back to people and businesses." Some might fear the money will disappear into the state’s general fund, “but the funding will go into a clean energy and jobs fund,” he said. And some might say this issue should be dealt with on the national level, “but that’s just not happening in short term, given the gridlock in Washington,” he said.
Others might reject the whole notion of manmade climate change, but an economic analysis done for the bill is not based on assumptions about climate science, Roberts said. “This is good for the Rhode Island economy whether climate change is happening or not, but it is irresponsible not to take climate change seriously with all there is at stake. And besides, these steps will produce good, stable jobs."
Carbon pricing legislation would steer RI toward cleaner energy while boosting local economy
STATEHOUSE - Backed by a coalition of advocates from business, environmental and faith communities, Rep. Aaron Regunberg announced that he will introduce legislation today to reduce Rhode Island’s reliance on fossil fuels and bolster the state’s clean energy and green business sector.The legislation is designed to provide incentives for renewable energy use, encourage the development of cleaner renewable energy projects, and create local jobs.
“2015 was the hottest year in human history, and 16 of the last 18 years have been the hottest on record,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “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 more extreme weather events, which we are already experiencing. We must take more decisive action on climate change, and carbon pricing is a proven tool that will help us reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels while directly benefiting Rhode Islanders.”
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. The Fund will be financed by a fee on carbon pollution, beginning at $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, paid by the companies that sell fossil fuels in the state.
Besides investing in clean energy efforts, the fund would also send a per capita or per employee rebate to every family and business in the state. “The rebate system accomplishes two things,” said Regunberg. “First, it protects Rhode Islanders from pass-along costs by the fossil fuel companies. And second, it creates a concrete economic incentive for individuals and businesses to invest in efficiency and renewables, because the cleaner and greener you are, the more you’ll benefit from that rebate.”
Representative Regunberg was joined by advocates from the Energize Rhode Island Coalition, a group formed last year to promote the legislation. Several business members of the coalition spoke, including Joseph Fernandes, a small business owner in Providence for over a decade. “If you were to attempt to open a business today in many parts of our state, you would find yourself facing a whole new set of barriers that didn’t exist for my parents,” Fernandes said. “You would be faced with the burden of having to pay for costly flood insurance premiums that will only grow higher. Climate change means your business is always vulnerable to an extreme weather event that could permanently close you down. These are on top of the challenges that already exist and they will only grow more dire year after year. These issues cut into both your profits and your ability to expand. Something must be done, and that’s why I am proud to join over 100 small and medium businesses across Rhode Island who have endorsed the Energize RI Act.”
According to the Energize RI Coalition, carbon pricing will complement existing state programs to help Rhode Islanders reduce their energy costs, make renewable energy more available, and put people to work in the growing clean energy industry. “This legislation allows us to invest in one of the strongest segments of our economy, the clean energy sector. This sector is already growing at a rate that is stronger than the rest of Rhode Island’s economy, supporting over 10,000 jobs and adding 1,600 more by the end of the year,” said business owner Ken Filarski of Filarski Architecture. “The Energize RI Act will accelerate this field. Passing this legislation means more funds to install solar panels, insulate houses, and implement other energy efficiency measures. It means more Rhode Islanders working in a field that has proven itself to be both profitable and sustainable.”
Business interests are not the only ones represented in the coalition, of course. “While issues of climate-change pose huge threats to all of us, it’s clear that lower-income families have been paying the highest price to date for an economy so heavily reliant on carbon-based energy sources. “We see this, for example, in the higher incidences of childhood asthma in our inner cities,” said Douglas Hall, Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy at the Economic Progress Institute. “This bill does a few things that we at the Economic Progress Institute think are important. A portion of the carbon tax will be passed onto consumers, including lower-income families, in the form of higher prices. The Energize Rhode Island Act addresses this concern, by providing rebates to Rhode Island families and businesses, ensuring they come out ahead. We have seen the incidence analysis of this bill and are confident that lower income Rhode Islanders will be more than protected from additional costs."
An economic impact study by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) estimated that the legislation would create a net growth of 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs in just the first two years of the program. It also noted that Rhode Island spends more than $3.1 billion annually on fossil fuels, nearly all of which flows out of the state, since Rhode Island does not produce these fuels itself. Incentivizing Rhode Islanders to switch from out-of-state fossil fuel sources to local renewables and efficiency will help keep more of that money in Rhode Island and protect the state from the volatile market swings that often affect these fuel prices.
The legislation establishes that 25 percent of the fees collected for the Clean Energy and Jobs Fund would be used for climate resilience, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy programs, to be administered by the state infrastructure bank created through legislation last year. Thirty percent would be used to provide direct dividends to employers in the state per full-time employee, and 40 percent would be used to provide direct dividends for every single state resident. Employees and residents would receive their funds via tax credits, or direct checks for those not required to file taxes.
According to the coalition’s research based on average energy use data, the program will not increase energy costs for the average Rhode Island family and businesses In fact, by paving the way for a transition to an energy independent economy, the policy will reduce costs for all Rhode Islanders in the long term. In the short term, the average Rhode Island household receives a net gain from the rebate. Even higher-income households will have an average net cost of only $25 per year toward the Clean Energy and Jobs Fund.
The bill has been cosponsored by 40 representatives, including House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
Posted by Elisha Aldrich on April 14, 2014 on RIFuture.org .
A new study says a carbon tax in the state would create between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs, as well as create up to $900 million in state revenue by 2040. Scott Nystrom, a senior economic associate and project manager for Regional Economic Models, Inc. presented the study’s findings at Brown University.
Sponsored by the Energize Rhode Island Coalition, REMI’s study examined the possible benefits and consequences of instituting such a tax in the state.
Introduced this year, the Carbon Pricing Act has been tabled for the session but will be resubmitted next year. The bill, if passed, would be the first of its kind in the United States, setting an environmental standard for the rest of the country. More information can be found here.
Energize Rhode Island is currently promoting the Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act, which would impose a carbon price (or tax) on all fossil fuels at the first point of sale within the state. The price would be $15 per ton of carbon dioxide for the first year the act is in effect, and raise at a rate of $5 per year.
The Carbon Pricing Act has two main goals – to provide a disincentive for using fossil fuel revenue to compensate for the cost of moving toward green energy. The price would be returned to Rhode Island’s economy in four different ways: a dividend check to households, a dividend to employers based on their share of state employment, a fund for energy efficiency costs, and administrative overhead.
According to REMI’s analysis, Rhode Island would receive positive benefits from implementing a carbon price.
“You actually have more jobs in Rhode Island that you would have otherwise with this policy,” Nystrom said during his presentation. Although the impact is relatively small, only around 1 percent of the jobs in the state, that’s still 2,000 to 4,000 jobs that were not there before. The Coalition says 1,000 of these jobs would be created within the first two years of the price’s introduction.
Total gross state product would rise as well, with the construction industry gaining roughly $86 million. The only industry that takes a serious hit due to the price is chemical manufacturing, which would lose $16 million. Real personal income would also increase between $80 and $100 million dollars during that time.
Nystrom also explained that instituting a carbon price could result in a population increase.
“Because the labor market is stronger, it draws more people to the state to an extent,” he said. “They move into the state as a consequence of the labor market, they buy a house, they settle down, and they increase the state’s population.”
With all of the new jobs and people living in Rhode Island, state revenues would be on the rise as well, earning between $200 and $900 million through the 2030s.
For all these benefits, cost of living would only increase minimally.
“Even though this does increase the cost of energy for states, It’s about a half a percent,” Nystrom said. “This means you have three months of extra inflection between now and 2040 than you would have otherwise.”
Carbon emissions were not the main focus of the study, but Nystrom did add that they would decrease over the course of a few years, and then stabilize.
“Emissions are purely a byproduct,” he said. “This is a result of the model.”
Posted by Ambar Espinoza on April 8, 2015 on RI Public Radio's website.
A new economic study by a forecasting firm has found that putting a tax on carbon pollution would reduce emissions and create jobs in Rhode Island. That will be the topic of a briefing this afternoon at Brown University.
The study assesses the impact of a billthat proposes putting a price—$15 per ton—on all fossil fuels that enter the state: oil, coal, gasoline, and natural gas. The sponsors of the bill recently withdrew the bill. Brown University student Solomon Goldstein-Rose wrote the first draft of the bill and said he's hopeful the bill will be re-introduced.
“The fact that the sponsors aren’t interested—these particular sponsors—in moving forward this year, it’s disappointing, because it was going to create 1,000 jobs in two years," said Goldstein-Rose. "It’s disappointing but it’s not anything that changes what we’re doing as a campaign.”
The bill’s economic impact study, which was conducted by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), predicts a carbon tax would reduce the state’s emissions by about 35 percent from current levels by 2040 and create about 4,300 jobs in that same period in industries such as construction and clean energy.
Goldstein-Rose said money generated from such a carbon tax would be reinvested in residents, businesses, and weatherization programs for low-income homes and small businesses.
“This would create a lot of construction jobs, especially because of the weatherization program, and just benefits a lot from people have more real personal disposable income.”
Goldstein-Rose said he will continue to campaign on behalf of this carbon tax bill as a member of the Energize Rhode Island Coalition. None of the bill’s sponsors could be reached for comment.
The REMI briefing takes place at Brown University's Wilson Hall, Room 102 at 5:00 p.m.
Published in April 2015 by RenewableNow.biz.
In the Rhode Island General Assembly, lawmakers have recently introduced the Energize Rhode Island: Carbon Pricing and Clean Energy Investment Act (S0147/H5857). The bill, introduced by Senator Walter S. Felag, D-Bristol, Tiverton and Warren in the Senate and Representative Daniel P. McKiernan, D-Providence in the House, addresses climate change by placing a gradually increasing price on carbon.
The fee, initially set at $15 but scheduled to rise by $5 every year, will be imposed on fossil fuels at the point of entry into the state. The steadily increasing price of these fossil fuels will reduce emissions by encouraging businesses to instead use clean energy.
This focus on clean energy is particularly significant because Rhode Island does not have fossil fuel resources and spends approximately $1 billion annually on carbon from out of state. The bill will ensure the money is kept within the state to boost local industries, including clean energy research and development.
The revenue from the carbon fee will be appropriated to one of several potential strategies, including direct rebates to households and businesses, clean energy research and development, public transit investment or Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, which will in turn fund clean energy and infrastructure projects. By reinvesting the revenue on state infrastructure, the bill aims to produce jobs and stimulate the Rhode Island economy.
“The bill shows that we don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment. It is important we pay the actual price of carbon now so we don’t have to play the full price of global warming later,” said Solomon Goldstein-Rose, an undergraduate at Brown University and Coordinator of the Energize RI team. Goldstein-Rose worked to develop the bill with J. Timmons Roberts, professor of environmental studies and sociology at Brown.
Carbon pricing systems have been implemented in several other regions, notably the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada. Since it adopted the continent’s first state-wide carbon tax in 2007, its fuel consumption has decreased 4.5 percent faster than any other province, while its GDP has grown at a faster rate. Similar taxes have also been implemented in certain municipalities in the United States, including Boulder, Colorado. However, no state has currently implemented a carbon fee.
Similar bills are being considered in states like Massachusetts, Vermont and California but have yet to be approved. If the Energize Rhode Island Act were passed in Rhode Island, it would make the state a national leader in addressing climate change.