Mass., R.I. Reject Regional Greenhouse Pact

Published February 1, 2006

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) of Northeastern states limped into existence in December 2005 with only seven of nine anticipated members actually signing the pact.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island disappointed global warming alarmists by refusing to sign the agreement, noting the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions required by the pact would severely threaten the states’ economies while producing no measurable change in global climate.

Cuts Have High Cost

States signing on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative must immediately cap greenhouse gas emissions from power plants at their current level and commit to reduce such emissions by a further 10 percent by 2020.

Numerous economic studies have concluded cutting greenhouse gas emissions in a manner similar to the RGGI would significantly punish the economies of states or nations making such cuts. For example, a 2003 study by The Heartland Institute (which publishes this newspaper) determined a state-specific program similar to the Kyoto Protocol could cost the average Massachusetts household $6,326 per year and the average Rhode Island household, $4,520 per year.

Safety Valve Rejected

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) attempted to craft a compromise solution that would place a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions power plants would have to cut in the event the pact drove energy prices unacceptably high. The remaining states in the RGGI refused to accept such a safety valve.

“New England has the highest energy rates in the country, and [the pact] would cost us more,” Romney told the December 15 Boston Globe. “We offered a simple safety valve and they rejected that and came back with a series of proposals to lessen the price escalation, but it was not a clean and sure safety valve.”

Threatens Jobs, Economy

“We’re seeing huge rate increases now in the cost of energy,” Romney explained to the New York Times for a November 29 article. “To add to that burden for the purposes of symbolism is something our business community is not about to undertake.”

“New England is already burdened with some of the highest energy prices in the country,” observed Carcieri’s press secretary, Jeff Neal, in a December 15 news release. “Our region’s high energy prices already hurt Rhode Island families, local businesses and our manufacturing industry. In short, high energy prices already cost Rhode Islanders jobs. Before rushing to sign a plan that risks increasing energy costs even further, we must understand what those extra costs will be, how they will impact our citizens, and how we will address them.”

“The two governors are being realistic,” said Pat Michaels, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former president of the American Association of State Climatologists. “If you are concerned about global warming, the last thing you want to do is harm your economy and deprive yourself of the opportunity to invest in new warming-fighting technologies. A strong economy is a prerequisite to a healthy environment.

“We currently require only half the energy we required in 1970 to produce the same amount of goods and services,” Michaels explained. “If we don’t invest in technology, and instead limit our wealth through command-and-control energy limitations, we deprive future generations of carbon-reducing technologies.”

Times Agrees Benefits Minimal

The November 29 New York Times confirmed Romney’s assertion that the economic sacrifices required by the pact would have little or no impact on global climate. “This would be the first such cooperative action by the states in the nation,” observed the Times, “but its impact on climate change would be limited.”

The defection of Massachusetts was particularly devastating to the pact’s supporters. “Massachusetts,” according to the December 15 Boston Globe, “was long seen as a key player in the pact, not only because it emits about 18 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions covered by the deal, but because of its stature as the hub of New England.”

Romney, Carcieri Praised

“The futility, not to mention the questionable lawfulness, of the RGGI is evident when even the exceedingly liberal states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island refuse to sign on,” said Marlo Lewis, senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Even most defenders of the pact admit it will be costly,” Lewis observed, “and scientists on both sides of the global warming issue agree that global climate will be only minimally affected by the Kyoto Protocol, let alone the actions of a few Northeastern states. Massachusetts and Rhode Island properly understood that it is wrong to force the citizens of your state to pay hard-earned money from their wallets to make nothing more than a symbolic statement about a very debatable environmental issue.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

The executive summary of Heartland Policy Study No. 101, “State Greenhouse Gas Programs: An Economic and Scientific Analysis,” with links to the full text of the report as well as individual state reports, is available online at