Posted at Providence Journal on February 10, 2018
Keith White’s Feb. 5 letter (“Proposed carbon tax is not worth the trouble”) asks what impact the carbon pricing bills introduced by state Rep. Aaron Regunberg and state Sen. Jeanine Calkin would have on the global economy. The global economy took notice when tiny Rhode Island erected the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
With federal inaction on climate change, states now have the responsibility to lead. Rhode Island is part of the Carbon Costs Coalition, and legislators from nine states are working together to strengthen regional progress. Carbon pricing legislation will send a strong price signal, and global investment will look to these innovative states that are moving toward a low-carbon economy.
Economic studies have shown that taxing carbon does what Mr. White is looking for — it is a market-based, “business-friendly” approach that creates “jobs and opportunities” and raises everyone’s “standard of living” while creating public health benefits as pollution is reduced. Taxing carbon levels the energy playing field as it incentivizes energy efficiency and locally produced renewable energy. That is good for all of us because it keeps more of our energy dollars in circulation in Rhode Island. Currently we send over $3.5 billion out of state each year on imported fossil fuels.
Mary Jane Sorrentino
Posted by Alex Kuffner at Providence Journal on February 5, 2018
PROVIDENCE — The state plans to issue a request for proposals later this year for up to 400 megawatts of renewable energy to help meet a goal of 1,000 megawatts by the end of 2020, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Monday.
She is directing the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to work with the state’s utilities to have an RFP ready by the end of the summer, the governor said at a news conference.
The RFP will be open to a variety of sources, including solar, both onshore and offshore wind, and small hydropower, but not to large hydropower from Canada of the sort selected last month by Massachusetts as part of its clean energy goals.
Raimondo said that with 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to rising seas and other effects of climate change. The state is committed to meeting its goals under the Paris climate agreement even if the federal government will not, she said.
“We want to do everything we know how to do in order to make Rhode Island sustainable and clean and create jobs in the process,” she said.
In March of last year, Raimondo announced the 1,000-megawatt goal, representing a 10-fold increase in the amount of renewable energy purchased by Rhode Island as compared with a 2016 baseline.
One thousand megawatts of renewable energy is a large number for a small state like Rhode Island, which has only about 2,000 megawatts of in-state electric generation, the bulk of which comes from natural gas-burning power plants.
At the end of 2017, the state had increased its supply of clean energy to 150 megawatts and had another 80 megawatts under contract from both in-state and out-of-state sources, according to the Office of Energy Resources.
A fifth of the current supply is coming from the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the nation, which was installed at the end of 2016 by Providence-based Deepwater Wind, and a third is coming from solar arrays, which are becoming more common around the state.
The Union of Concerned Scientists in 2017 ranked Rhode Island fourth in the nation for clean energy momentum.
The trend is evident in the solar industry, said Carol Grant, commissioner of the energy office. In 2014, there were six solar companies authorized to do business in Rhode Island. Now there are 48.
She said the time is right to invest in more renewables as prices in the industry come down.
“There is a window in which using scale and using a competitive process we think we can get great prices for Rhode Islanders,” she said. “There’s often been a sense that you have to choose between clean and affordable. We believe this is a moment when we can do clean and affordable.”
Posted by Jennifer McDermott at US News on February 1, 2018
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers are working with environmental advocates to pass legislation that would charge fossil fuel companies for carbon pollution.
Democratic Rep. Aaron Regunberg said Thursday he has introduced legislation to set a fee in Rhode Island of $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions. The money would be used for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency and for rebates for consumers.
Lawmakers and advocates in nine states launched the Carbon Costs Coalition on Wednesday to create a regional carbon pricing system, Regunberg added. The states are Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
"The State of the Union made it even more crystal clear that if we want ambitious climate action, if we want to secure a habitable world for our children, that action isn't going to be coming out of D.C.," said Regunberg, a lieutenant governor candidate.
In his State of the Union speech, Republican President Donald Trump declared an end to the "the war on beautiful clean coal."
According to the Energy Department, coal produces nearly twice as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide per energy created as natural gas. In 2011, coal burning emitted more than 6 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, versus 430,000 tons from other energy sources combined.
Carbon tax legislation has stalled in Rhode Island in the past. Some worried Rhode Island would be at a competitive disadvantage if it charged a fee and neighboring states didn't. The new proposal includes a trigger to put the fee into effect only if neighboring states pass a similar policy.
Democratic state Sen. Jeanine Calkin is sponsoring companion legislation in the Senate. She says having the support of eight other states signals that "we now have regional strength in the shared goal of bold action on climate."
Posted by Natasha Geiling at ThinkProgress on January 31, 2018
Lawmakers from nine states announced on Wednesday that they would be forming a coalition to help pass carbon pricing at the local level, citing the importance of state-level policies in the face of federal inaction on climate.
“This is the next logical step in terms of protecting our planet, not just for the people of our state, but literally the world,” New York State Senator Kevin Parker (D), said on a press call announcing the formation of the coalition. “This is a global crisis where we need to be thinking globally and acting locally.”
Currently, California is the only state in the country to have an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions, which it enacted in 2012, and which legislators voted last summer to extend. But legislators from the nine participating states — New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — have been working together over the past two years to craft legislation and messaging around the idea of a carbon tax that would touch all parts of the state’s economy, from energy to transportation. Some, like Oregon, are far enough along in the process that the legislature could consider a carbon tax sometime this session. Others, like New Hampshire, are considering bills that would create task forces to study the issue further.
While each state in the coalition will ostensibly write and pass its own version of a carbon tax, lawmakers participating in the group said that it has been helpful to discuss how to best message the issue to their constituents.
“One of the big takeaways for me in working with the group is not only are we talking about actual language and comparing bills and really vetting some of those areas, we’re talking about how we can work in a political environment like we’re in,” Massachusetts State Representative Jen Benson (D) said. “We can compare how we have been approaching all the different players in our states, and work on that together.”
Lawmakers in different states are already working on honing their particular message to suit the political winds in their state. In Rhode Island, for instance, a state that imports all of its energy from out of state sources, representatives have been stressing the idea that a price on carbon would incentivize renewable energy production within the state, leading to greater investment in local economies. In Connecticut and Maryland — both states that struggle with air pollution — lawmakers have pushed a message about public health, arguing that a price on carbon would help reduce pollutants associated with fossil fuel-fired energy generation.
In Washington, lawmakers have pressed forward with that idea that a price on carbon would allow the state, which is home to businesses like Microsoft and Amazon, to invest in cutting-edge, green infrastructure. And in New York and Oregon, legislators have worked to ensure that a carbon tax would be used to further issues of environmental justice by ensuring that a majority of the profits raised from any tax would be reinvested in vulnerable communities.
“Pollution pricing is about equity, and showing that we are aggressively cutting emissions that disproportionately impact communities of color,” New York’s Parker said.
Messaging aside, however, passing a carbon tax is a difficult political task even for the most environmentally-progressive states. In Oregon, for instance, where lawmakers have introduced “cap-and-invest” bills that would require the state’s largest polluters to purchase emissions credits and reinvest that money in adaptation and mitigation programs, senior state senators have suggested that the bill might fall short in the current legislative session. And in Washington, where Democrats won a thin majority in the state legislature in November’s election, attempts to put a price on carbon have failed twice before: once at the legislative level, and another time at the ballot box.
Even if all nine states were to enact some kind of price on carbon, it would only represent a small slice of the country’s overall carbon emissions. Rhode Island and Vermont are two of the lowest carbon emitters in the country, while high-emitting states like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois currently have no public plans for enacting a price on carbon.
Still, lawmakers involved in the coalition hope that, by forging ahead with carbon pricing at the state level, they can pave the way for reluctant states — and, potentially, the federal government.
“Some of our states will be advancing policies this year, some of our states will be taking 24 months or so,” Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker (D) said. “But what you will see is a coordinated effort to put a price on polluters now and in coming months, so we can advance a meaningful national solution.”