Associated Industries of Mass takes aim at…RGGI?

Last week an Energy News article highlighted the growing momentum in Massachusetts and across New England for carbon pricing in transportation. Tucked inside of it was a statement from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), an industry group, on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and carbon pricing.

According to the article “the group [AIM] has outlined its own proposal that would cover all carbon-emitting sectors in one system, pull Massachusetts out of RGGI, and eliminate existing ratepayer-funded renewable energy and efficiency programs.” Essentially what AIM is saying is that they want one carbon price for the entire economy, one that would cover transportation, electricity,  as well as commercial and industrial greenhouse gasses.

This proposal is flawed for two reasons. First, it is widely understood that we need a suite of climate and energy policies to meet the multifaceted problem. Many of the policies in place have yielded amazing results by growing the state’s economy and reducing our dependence on pollution-intensive energy. Second, and more importantly, AIM’s proposal seeks an elimination of existing programs that benefit small businesses and households across the state. This would not only hurt the state’s economy, cost Massachusetts thousands of local jobs, but also follow along the lines of  similar actions the Trump administration has taken against energy efficiency.

Massachusetts has been among the fastest growing economies in the region since 2007. Not only does the Commonwealth’s gross state product (GSP) outpace many of our neighbors, we have benefited from the highest person income rate growth in the Northeast. Clean technology and renewable energy have been the bedrock for this growth. Programs such as Mass Save have been crucial in spurring the opportunities in these sectors. Data published by the state of Massachusetts, shows that in 2018, the clean energy and energy efficiency sector employed approximately 110,700 people in Massachusetts. This is among the fastest growing sub-sectors of the economy, with year over year employment growth of 5.8% compared to 2017.

Simply put, these are not just regulations that are in place to reduce pollution, they underpin more than a decade of the state’s economic growth and are critical to our future success. AIM’s proposal threatens this success, and would dramatically cut available funding renewables and energy efficiency programs by more than half.

Just as concerning, AIM’s proposal places them alongside the Trump administration, which has made multiple attempts to rollback progress on energy efficiency and policies that prioritize pollution reduction. In February of 2018, Trump proposed cutting funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 66%. Then in August the Washington Post reported that Trump’s Department of Energy is proposing to roll back existing energy efficiency requirements for lightbulbs. More recently, the Trump administration has illegally delayed four energy efficiency standards that will save America’s consumers and businesses more than $8 billion in energy costs, and in doing so violated legal requirements.

It is encouraging to see AIM starting to come around in support for a price on carbon pollution, the group’s policy proposal to completely eliminate RGGI and our existing energy efficiency programs is reclouse and will endanger economic growth in key sectors. Otherwise it risks joining the Trump administration in putting tens of thousands of Massachusetts jobs at risk and reversing years of progress in climate policy.