Marylanders Rally Behind State Climate Leadership, Thank Governors for Cutting Pollution, Call For More Protections For Environmental Justice Communities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2017 at 11 am ET

CONTACT: Emily Pomilio, emily.pomilio@sierraclub.org(480) 286-0401

Emma Stieglitz, estieglitz@climatenexus.org(267) 566-4238  

Morgan Folger, mfolger@environmentamerica.org(203) 343-1736

Marylanders Rally Behind State Climate Leadership, Thank Governors for Cutting Pollution, Call For More Protections For Environmental Justice Communities 

Nine States Present Plan to Reduce Power Plant Emissions Another 30 Percent by 2030

BALTIMORE, MD — Community leaders rallied at the War Memorial Plaza today to celebrate and improve the bipartisan plan by nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors to cut pollution from power plants 30 percent by the year 2030. The nine states make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), America’s first and only multi-state program to limit pollution from power plants and accelerate our transition to clean energy. 

The governors’ proposal to reduce emissions stands in stark contrast to Trump Administration efforts to deregulate polluters and roll back basic environmental protections.

The rally was organized by a coalition of environmental, business, community, and grassroots organizations which advocated for deeper pollution cuts and more protections for and investment in overburdened and underserved communities during the 20-month-long negotiation process. The rally preceded RGGI’s Monday stakeholder meeting, where state officials presented their proposal for public input. 

“From 2009 to 2014, pollution reductions from RGGI saved the region around $5.7 billion in health costs,” said Sara Via, co-lead of the Climate Health Action Team at Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Strengthening RGGI is a huge win for public health. We’ll prevent more cases of asthma and heart disease, we’ll lower the number of times people have to miss work or school for illness, and we’ll help people live longer, healthier lives.”

Local leaders called for the need to further improve the program in the coming years by examining the disproportionate impact of pollution on poor communities and to focus investment for efficiency and renewable energy in those areas — as well as continuing the charge to reduce pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, and other sources.

“The health impacts of electricity generation disproportionately fall on communities of color and the poor, and are commonly associated with smaller fossil fuel power plants located in or near these communities,” said Sheryl Musgrove from Pace Energy and Climate Center. “To address this issue, we need to expand RGGI to cover emissions from smaller power plants, apply an environmental justice screen to all decision making and ensure that RGGI revenue is reinvested in energy efficiency and renewable energy measures targeted for households in these communities.”

“We work with communities that are suffering from the effects of air pollution daily,” said Johana Vicente, Community Organizer, Chispa Maryland. “Although we thank Maryland officials for their work on creating this plan, we urge them to work to ensure that the communities most affected by environmental degradation are getting the benefits from RGGI.”

Over the last decade, the nine RGGI states have proven that action to clean up pollution delivers major benefits. For example, the program has enabled states to invest more than $2.7 billion in clean energy, energy efficiency and consumer benefit programs to date. That has had a real and meaningful impact on people’s lives.

Using grants available through RGGI, David Barrow, a retired federal employee from Frederick County, Maryland, made several upgrades to his home’s insulation, heating, and electricity systems. The efficiency measures lowered his energy bill from an unaffordable $6,000 per year to $530 per year and enabled him to continue living in his home during his retirement.

“I sleep well at night knowing that I can afford to stay in the home where my wife and I raised our family,” said David Barrow. “RGGI is a clear example of how protecting environment also helps families and communities. We’re proud that Maryland is part of RGGI and we hope that other families can benefit from the program the way we did.”

By supporting projects like one undertaken by the Barrows, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative creates thousands of jobs across the region for HVAC technicians, solar installers, well drillers, home energy auditors and insulation installers. RGGI state economies have grown by an impressive 25 percent, and have boosted employment by more than 30,000 jobs, generating nearly $3 billion in economic growth.

A new analysis by the Acadia Center shows that economic growth and climate action go hand in hand. Since RGGI was established in 2009, member states have reduced emissions by 15 percent more than other states, and experienced 4.3 percent more economic growth than non-RGGI states.

Making the RGGI program stronger will generate even more benefits. For example, the tighter emissions cap will result in 130 million fewer tons of CO2 and $1.28 billion in avoided health impacts. It will also generate on the order of seven billion additional dollars through 2030 for clean energy programs.