A Record of Leadership: How Northeastern States are Cutting Global Warming Pollution and Building a Clean Economy

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Over the last decade, northeastern states have built a track record of successful action to reduce global warming pollution. By working together across state lines and partisan divides—and developing innovative new policies to hasten the transition to a clean energy economy—the Northeast has succeeded in cutting emissions while safeguarding the region’s economic health.

Between 2000 and 2009, the ten northeastern states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cut per capita carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent faster than the rest of the nation—even as the region’s gross product per capita grew 87 percent faster than the rest of the United States.

The region is on pace to achieve the ambitious emission reduction goals set over the last decade. Much more remains to be done to protect the region from the impacts of global warming, but the experience of the past decade provides hope that smart policies and an ethic of cooperation can result in a rapid reduction in global warming pollution even as the region’s economy continues to grow.

Northeastern states have been pioneers in the effort to reduce fossil fuel pollution, leading the way in demonstrating effective policies to promote a clean energy economy and reduce emissions.

  • Emission reduction goals: The New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, adopted in 2001, set the first regional emission reduction target in the United States and was the first international, multi-jurisdictional agreement reached anywhere in the world. Outside New England, New Jersey and Maryland adopted enforceable caps on global warming pollution within their states, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut in doing so.
  • Cleaning up power plants: Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to set mandatory limits on global warming pollution from power plants, in 2001, eventually leading to creation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first global warming cap-and-trade program. RGGI’s innovative auction of carbon dioxide emission allowances was the largest in the world when it began in 2008 and has funded clean energy programs that will curb global warming pollution.
  • Cleaning up cars: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine were the first northeastern states to adopt the Clean Cars Program, which sets vehicle tailpipe emission limits for carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Eight of the ten northeastern states eventually adopted the program, pushing the federal government to follow suit in 2009. In 2011, the Obama administration adopted even stronger standards that will deliver additional savings at the gas pump and reductions in global warming pollution.
  • Improving energy efficiency: Six of the top ten states for energy efficiency are in the Northeast, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Northeastern states have set ambitious energy efficiency goals, created innovative energy efficiency “utilities,” helped drive the federal government to adopt new energy efficiency standards for appliances, and are among the leaders in implementation of strong building energy codes.
  • Expanding renewable energy: Every northeastern state other than Vermont has adopted a renewable electricity standard designed to increase production of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. In 2000, the Northeast had only 25 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity; by 2010 it had 1,671 MW. The region also had 397 MW of solar energy capacity by the end of 2010, of which 70 percent was installed in either 2009 or 2010. The region’s efforts have paid off in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, even as the region’s per capita GDP has grown faster than the nation as a whole.
  • A 2011 study by the Analysis Group found that the RGGI program raised economic output by $1.6 billion in the participating states.
  • The 10 northeastern states participating in RGGI emitted 161 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from electricity use in 2009—15 percent less than in 2000 and nine percent less than in 1990.
  • These emission reductions put the northeastern states on track to meet their emission reduction goals. The six New England states, for example, committed to reducing their global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, in concert with eastern Canadian provinces. By 2009, New England’s carbon dioxide emissions were seven percent below 1990 levels.
  • On a per capita basis, the 10 northeastern states cut emissions 20 percent faster than the rest of the nation between 2000 and 2009, even as the region’s gross product per capita grew 87 percent faster than the rest of the United States. The experience of the last decade shows that large reductions in global warming pollution are possible, that innovative regional collaborations can help make them happen, and that emission reductions can be achieved side-by-side with economic growth. However, with global warming and fossil fuel dependence continuing to threaten the Northeast—and with even greater emission reductions needed in the years ahead—the region cannot afford to rest on its laurels. The northeastern states should build on the successes of the last decade by:
  • Strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a signature element of the region’s strategy to reduce global warming pollution. Northeastern states should strengthen RGGI’s emission cap to drive further emission reductions from power plants, and consider expanding the program to new jurisdictions and new sources of emissions.
  • Continuing to develop innovative regional policies, especially a Clean Fuels Standard that can hasten the region’s transition away from oil as a transportation fuel while ensuring that new fuels are less damaging to
    the climate.
  • Learning from success, by ensuring that successful approaches are adopted by every state in the region and nationally.
  • Continuing to set aggressive goals and planning to reach them. States with enforceable caps on global warming pollution should follow through on those commitments, while other states should redouble their efforts to identify and tap all available sources of emission reductions, and engage and inform the public about their efforts.

One Man’s Discarded Trinkets Become Art — in a Dumpster

Read the full post at GOOD.

When Brooklyn-based collage artist Mac Premo was preparing to move from his longtime studio to a much smaller one, he knew he had to get rid of hundreds of items from his past. But instead of simply tossing everything in the trash, he decided to catalog each item and the memories associated with them.

The result was The Dumpster Project, a public art installation inside a 30-foot-long dumpster. He took each discarded item, photographed it, then placed it inside of the dumpster to create a giant collage filled with remnants of his life. The objects often tell a story of a specific place and time, with an emphasis on the friends and family that made the memory important. About 500 of the objects will be recorded along with a description on the project’s blog, highlighting items from moments that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but collectively make up an entire existence.

Pollution Prevention Week 2012 Video Contest

In celebration of National Pollution Prevention Week (September 17-23), DTSC and the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) are asking people to make a short video that shows how making small changes in our daily lives can have a positive impact on the environment.

The them of the contest, “What’s your footprint?”, is about exploring how lifestyle choices can create a net positive impact on the environment. We hope this contest encourages you to share your own experiences on how to reduce your environmental footprint while learning what others are doing. Videos submitted for this contest should encourage the audience to make choices that support pollution prevention. Send us your video showing us the positive impact that could be achieved if everyone made a commitment to support pollution prevention. For examples of pollution prevention, click here.

Read the script for the Pollution Prevention Week 2011 promotional video or visit our YouTube contest site.

The Competition

National Pollution Prevention Week is about renewing our efforts to protect the environment and human health. This year we are again asking for videos of 60 seconds or less that focus on the key elements of pollution prevention:

  • Generating less solid & hazardous waste
  • Using less toxic chemicals (safer ingredients and products)
  • Conserving water & energy
  • Reducing air pollution
  • Conserving natural resources

All you need to do is

  1. Fill out the submission form,
  2. review the rules,
  3. submit your video response on or before Sept. 12, 2012, to our promotional video on DTSC’s YouTube contest site, and
  4. send out the contest flyer to all your friends!

The best videos will be featured throughout Pollution Prevention Week on the DTSC Web page.

Online Clearinghouse for Education And Networking: Oil Interdisciplinary Learning (OCEAN-OIL)

Two years ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform killed 11 men and initiated the largest marine oil spill in history, with roughly five million barrels released from the Macondo well, with roughly 4.2 million barrels pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

To provide factual information and curricular resources about this disaster, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) and our Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD) have created the Online Clearinghouse for Education And Networking: Oil Interdisciplinary Learning (OCEAN-OIL) a free, open-access, peer-reviewed electronic education resource about the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

OCEAN-OIL resources now available at www.EoEarth.org/oceanoil include:

  • National Commission Reports on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill- all of the 30 official reports and many background papers
  • Articles (160+)  hyper-linked, encyclopedia style
  • Teaching resources (30) including games and teacher guides
  • Glossary (400+) related to oil spill causes, impacts, clean-up, and prevention
  • Acronyms (LPG,  PPM,  ROV,  VOC) (75+) to help decode the language of oil spill science
  • External links (100+) to  government sites, image galleries, news sources, industry, environmental groups, education, and journal articles
  • Photo galleries: Images by renowned photojournalist Gary Braasch and others
  • Deepwater Horizon by the Numbers: Publication-quality graphs
  • Videos (280+)
  • Databases – Statistics, technical diagrams, maps, and other data

The OCEAN-OIL website is seamlessly integrated into the Encyclopedia of Earth (www.eoearth.org), which is a free, peer-reviewed, searchable collection of content about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society, written by expert scholars and educators. The site is designed to be a resource to faculty members and other educators who may use the incident in their teaching.

The project is a partnership among NCSE, CEDD, Louisiana State University and Boston University. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

For more information, contact:

David E. Blockstein, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary,
Council of Environmental Deans and Directors
Senior Scientist
National Council for Science and the Environment
1101 17th St. NW #250
Washington DC 20036
202-207-0004 direct
202-530-5810 general
202-628-4311 fax

Garden Tower Project: A Breakthrough in Home Food Production

Visit Kickstarter to find out more and donate to the project.

The Garden Tower is a 50-plant vertical container garden that transforms your kitchen scraps directly into organic fertilizer. This internal biological composting system, along with the Garden Tower’s low-evaporation design and other innovative features, creates incredibly healthy growing conditions. The result is considerably faster and more abundant veggie, flower, and herb growth than conventional gardening can offer. (See it in action!)

U.S. utilities doubled solar installations in 2011

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Rumors of solar power’s demise are greatly exaggerated, according to a study by a solar power trade organization. U.S. utilities doubled installations in 2011 from 2010, also demonstrating a demand shift away from household installations.

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) this week published findings demonstrating growing solar power adoption by utility companies. Most of the growth happened in the eastern United States.

Charging devices eliminate vampire power

Watch the video at SmartPlanet.

We all know that leaving a device plugged in wastes significant amounts of electricity over time. But is anyone motivated enough to unplug all their gadgets and appliances while they’re not in use? SmartPlanet’s Sumi Das takes a look at a new product that stops the standby power problem.