States Aim to Cut Gases by Making Polluters Pay
Ten states from Maryland to Maine are about to undertake the nation’s most serious effort yet to tackle climate change, putting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from utilities and making them pay for each ton of pollutants.
The program is due to get off the ground in nine days, but already there are worries that it may fail to reduce pollution substantially in the Northeast, undermining a concept that is being watched carefully by the rest of the country, by Congress and by European regulators.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, will cap emissions for 233 plants. By putting a price on the carbon dioxide they emit, it gives plants a financial incentive to clean themselves up, with the proceeds channeled to energy-saving and renewable energy programs in each state.
The states will set their own limits, with each issuing tradable permits, or allowances, for carbon pollution. On Sept. 25, utilities will start bidding at auction for allowances, which they can later sell — mimicking the so-called cap-and-trade programs that effectively reduced acid rain in the 1990s.