2005-08-31 / Features

Gianaris Applauds Power Plant Emissions Pact

by linda j. wilson

“This agreement represents a major step forward for the health of our neighborhood.  
“This agreement represents a major step forward for the health of our neighborhood. A preliminary agreement by officials of nine states in the Northeastern United States to hold greenhouse gas emissions from power plants at current levels and reduce them by 10 percent by 2020 drew praise from Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who has battled power plant emissions in New York state, especially in his 36th Assembly District, during his entire term in office.

“This agreement represents a major step forward for the health of our neighborhood. This pact will bring benefits to communities like Astoria and Long Island City that, for too long, have dealt with high rates of asthma caused by local power plants,” Gianaris said not long after the terms of the agreement were made public last week.

New York Governor George Pataki led the agreement, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative after the Bush presidential administration decided not to act and refused to join more than 150 other nations on the Kyoto anti-emissions treaty, which Gianaris noted. “[President George W.] Bush neglected our environment since his first days in office, forcing the states to act on their own,” Gianaris maintained. “ Those of us in state government will continue to fight for our communities and fill the gaps caused by the failures of the Bush administration.”

The nine states in the coalition, which was begun in 2003, are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. More than 600 electric generators in the nine states are cited as generating the carbon dioxide emissions. Utilities that came in under their targets for emission reductions could sell their excess emissions capacity credits to other utilities under the market-driven system to control carbon dioxide emissions that would be created under the initiative.

Specific caps on emissions that would drop over time would be set on emissions. Emissions for the nine states would be capped at 150 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Each of the states would have its own cap, with Vermont at 1.35 million tons the smallest and New York, would be the largest at 65.6 million tons.

Mayors of more than 40 cities in the Northeast lost no time in urging the governors of the nine states to adopt the plan quickly. Climate change, they said in a letter to the nine governors, poses a significant threat to people and communities in the Northeast.

The environmental group that coordinated the effort, Clean Air-Cool Planet, has not yet received a response from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor did join a bipartisan national coalition of more than 130 mayors committed to fighting global warming on a local level earlier this year. Most of the mayors signing the letter to the governors represent small- to medium-size cities.

Speculation in a daily newspaper noted that the emission controls could result in higher energy prices. The higher prices could possibly be offset by subsidies and support for development of new technology. The sale of emission allowances could possibly be used to pay for the new technology.

A spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents electric power companies, said the plan has the potential to have a major impact on electricity prices. The companies are also concerned about proposed restrictions that would limit their ability to import power from dirtier coal-fired plants in states outside the regional pact. Those restrictions are still being discussed.

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