We need to quickly transition off fossil fuels to 100% clean renewable energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and protect the environment and public health. Carbon pricing schemes like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are at best a distraction from reaching this goal, and at worst are a plan to lock us into a future with more water pollution from fracking, more risky and damaging gas infrastructure, more air pollution in low-income communities and more intense extreme weather because of climate change. RGGI is a market-based cap-and-trade agreement between Northeastern states that aims to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants by placing a cap on industry-wide emissions and allowing facilities to purchase credits in an auction to cover the amount of pollution they generate. This effort to reduce CO2 has actually resulted in a shift from coal to natural gas for energy. This shift is occurring because CO2 is the chief greenhouse gas pollutant emitted from coal burning power plants, and shifting to natural gas results in much lower CO2 emissions. While we welcome the shift away from coal, the transition to natural gas is actually worse for the climate and is causing a litany of other problems. Methane, the chief component of natural gas has 86 times more heat trapping capacity than CO2. This is problematic because leaks in pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and other gas infrastructure is largely unaccounted for and not considered at all by RGGI. By ignoring methane, we are actually contributing to our climate crisis while pretending like we are addressing the problem. The transition to natural gas is also creating a threat to air and water quality by creating more demand for fracked gas, pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and other infrastructure. Right now dozens of pipelines are being built or proposed to be built in the Eastern United States. These pipelines are supplying new gas power plants with natural gas, and creating an incentive to expand fracking in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and other states. While proponents of RGGI tout the regulatory flexibility benefits of these policies, in reality these policies will lock us into more dirty energy that is warming our planet. The adverse impacts of fracking on public health, drinking water, and the environment are well documented, as are the harm and risk associated with gas pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants.
To make matters worse, market-based environmental policies like pollution trading prioritize industry over our most vulnerable communities. These trading schemes encourage industry to keep discharging air and water pollutants by buying more pollution credits, which creates toxic hotspots that concentrate emissions near vulnerable communities. Ultimately, these market-based policies worsen the environmental and public health burdens on lower-income communities and communities of color that are already disproportionately impacted by pollution.
By continuing to rely on programs like RGGI to address the climate crisis, we are locking ourselves into more fossil fuels, more climate change, and more harmful pollution. We need elected officials at every level of government to stand up to fossil fuel interests and support policies that will end the use of fossil fuels and rapidly transition us to 100% clean renewable energy. Sincerely,
Food & Water Watch, USAPeople Demanding Action, USABerks Gas Truth, PABucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipelines, PANC WARN, NCBlue Ridge Environmental Defense League, VA, NC, SC, TN, GA, ALPreserve Floyd, VAARTivism Virginia, VARenewable Energy Electric Vehicle Association, VAOhio Valley Environmental Coalition, WV