Friday, January 4, 2008

Minority Report - Richard Tisei

In its first formal session of 2008, the Senate approved legislation codifying the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nine northeast states have joined this environmental compact to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 10 percent between 2009 and 2019.

Under this initiative, electricity generating plants that comply with a defined emissions cap will be able to sell allowances through a “cap and trade” program to plants that exceed the cap. Proponents are touting the environmental benefits, but the unanswered question is how much this program will impact communities, businesses and individual ratepayers, and whether it will put Massachusetts at a competitive disadvantage.

With the state expecting modest revenue growth and a projected deficit of more than $1 billion in FY08, the last thing we need is another costly program that will put Massachusetts even further in the red. To address these concerns, the Senate Republican Caucus offered a series of amendments authored by Assistant Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, including one to suspend the compact if the cost to electric generators exceeds $150 million to ensure that these additional costs are not passed on to consumers. Another amendment would require that 25 percent of the revenues generated by the auctioning of credits be returned to cities and towns.

In the end, both proposals were rejected, but the Caucus did gain concessions from the Democrats on two other amendments: one requiring the Legislature to receive a copy of draft RGGI regulations at least 30 days prior to their scheduled implementation, and another directing the Division of Energy Resources to file an annual report with the Legislature detailing how the program’s funds are being distributed.

-Richard Tisei