Defending U.S. Carbon Cap And Trade

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the first effort in the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions using a cap and trade system. An industry lawsuit against the state of New York threatens the entire program. Earthjustice is defending the program and states’ ability to proactively curb greenhouse gas emissions without mandated federal regulation.

Case Overview

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first carbon cap and trade system that has been implemented in the United States. Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are committing to multiple steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a 45% reduction in 2014, which will be followed by an additional 2.5% each year from 2015 through 2020.

RGGI has created a cost-effective model for climate action at the state level. Since its launch, the Western Climate Initiative and Southwest Climate initiative have used RGGI as a technical guide in designing an auction-based approach to allocating emissions allowances. The model incorporates the “polluter pays” principle, which mandates polluters to buy permits that enable them emit carbon emissions, rather than emitting carbon and pollution for free. Under RGGI, states sell the majority of emissions allowances through auctions and in-turn invests the proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other consumer benefits programs.

In June of 2011, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Americans for Prosperity filed a lawsuit against the state of New York for participating in the program. Earthjustice and its partners have submitted an amicus briefing to defend this program as well as the states’ ability to proactively curb emissions in advance of federal climate regulation. This lawsuit is a threat to the entire program. Earthjustice will continue to fight to ensure that this legal challenge does not set back these important steps to mitigate climate change.

A coal-fired power plant in Maryland.
A coal-fired power plant in Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Stehr / UMD)

Case Updates

February 7, 2013 Press Release

Earthjustice Applauds Northeast, Mid-Atlantic State Effort to Address Climate Change Pollution

Market based approach working in absence of Congressional leadership