Could Blue States Form One Big Cap-and-Trade Program?

California and Quebec are actively looking for other states and provinces to join their cap-and-trade program, reports Bloomberg.

Potential newcomers they are talking to include Ontario, New England and Northwestern states. So far, the program oversees over 180 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, but the it would be stronger with more participants.

Could the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) link with them, forming a much bigger program? There’s a key difference between the two programs: RGGI focuses only on cutting emissions from power plants, while the California-Quebec program takes "the full plunge," covering power plants, oil refineries and high-polluting factories.

So far, California’s program is wildly successful, expected to bring in $5 billion a year to California by 2016 and almost $3 billion for Quebec by 2020, all of which supports efforts to reduce emissions and move to renewable energy. Their first joint auction takes place in November as the Western Climate Initiative.

California Please Do Not Emit

On September 3, RGGI held its 25th sold-out auction for the right to emit carbon. Since the program began in 2008, emissions are down 29%, while generating $1.5 billion in revenues that have been invested in efficiency and renewables, boosting local economies. And electricity prices have dropped 10%. By 2020, revenues could reach $2.2 billion.

The program is also benefiting the regional grid, allowing operators to incorporate more renewables, lower costs and increase reliability, according to ACORE. ISO New England expects distributed energy to hit 2 gigawatts by 2021, up from 250 MW in 2012.

Unfortunately, New Jersey isn’t benefiting from the blue state initiative, because it’s got a Republican governor that refuses to participate. Even though the state legislature strongly supports RGGI, he pulled the state out in 2011 soon after being elected – because it’s "a gimmicky program that doesn’t work." 

Environmental groups took him to court, which ruled that Christie can’t unilaterally rescind a law without public input. So, he held a couple of public hearings in August and September and will soon decide again. In the meantime, the legislature is poised to pass a law that would allow for further litigation. 

Read our article, Whoops! Governor Christie Pulled Out of RGGI Illegally. 

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