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.”