Calkin, Regunberg introduce carbon pricing bill
Legislation incentivizes carbon emissions reductions, funds renewable energy and rebates for consumers
STATE HOUSE — Backed by environmental advocates and a newly formed regional coalition, Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Jeanine Calkin announced their introduction of legislation to charge fossil fuel sellers for the carbon pollution their products cause, and invest the money in the state’s clean energy and green business sector as well as rebates sent directly to energy consumers.
The Energize Rhode Island: Economic and Climate Resilience Act of 2018 legislation (2018-S 2188, 2018-H 7400) is intended to develop market-based solutions to reduce fossil fuel reliance and carbon emissions, create a resilient local economy and improve public health.
“We need to advance an economy-wide price on carbon pollution in Rhode Island now. By returning rebates to residents and businesses, and creating the Energize RI Fund, we will be investing in the clean energy economy and moving our state away from dirty sources of energy. Having the support of eight other states in the region sends a clear signal that we have now have regional strength in the shared goal of bold action on climate. We don’t have a moment to lose,” said Senator Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick).
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “2017 was the worst natural disaster year in our history, and the devastating impacts of climate change are already being felt here in Rhode Island. With a federal administration hell-bent on ignoring the problem, ambitious climate action can only come from the states, and that’s why now is the time to create a regional carbon pricing strategy that will put thousands of Rhode Islanders to work bringing renewable energy and efficiency to all our communities.”
The legislation is designed to provide incentives for energy users to reduce their reliance on carbon-emitting fuels and encourage the development of cleaner renewable energy projects that keep Rhode Islanders’ dollars in the state and create jobs locally.
The legislation would establish a new Clean Energy and Jobs Fund that will invest in renewables and efficiency and help Rhode Islanders lower their energy costs, financed by the fee — set at $15 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 — on carbon pollution, paid by the companies that sell fossil fuels in the state. The legislation is designed to go into effect only after neighboring states with a population of over 5 million pass a similar policy.
Besides investing in clean energy efforts, the fund would also send a per capita or per-employee rebate to every household and business in the state to protect against the additional costs that fossil fuel companies may pass along to energy consumers.
The legislation establishes that 28 percent of the fees collected would be used for climate resilience, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy programs; 30 percent would be used to provide direct dividends to employers in the state per full-time employee; and 40 percent would be used to provide direct dividends for every single state resident. Employees and residents would receive their funds via tax credits, or checks for those not required to file taxes.
An economic impact study by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) estimated that the legislation would create a net growth of 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs in just the first two years of the program. It also noted that Rhode Island spends more than $3.1 billion annually on fossil fuels, nearly all of which flows out of the state. Incentivizing Rhode Islanders to switch from out-of-state fossil fuel sources to local renewables and efficiency will help keep more of that money in Rhode Island, and — according to the study — will also help protect the state from the volatile market swings that often affect these fuel prices.
According to Energize RI, a coalition of community groups established to advocate for the bill, the program will not increase energy costs for the average Rhode Island family or businesses, and in fact, will reduce costs for all Rhode Islanders in the long term. In the short term, the average Rhode Island household receives a net gain from the rebate, and even those households whose incomes are higher would have an average net cost of only $25 per year.
The sponsors announced the bill at a State House event today, backed by Energize RI, and a broad range of environmental and renewable energy advocates. They also announced the formation of the Carbon Costs Coalition, a multi-state coalition of state legislators from nine states focused on accurately accounting for the cost of carbon pollution and committed to the passage of carbon pricing as a regional initiative. Represented states currently include Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Carbon pricing leaders from these states have been regularly convening for nearly two years at meetings coordinated by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, and the formalization is an effort to strengthen the regional momentum and advance progress at the state level.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903