Representative Aaron Regunberg and Senator Jeanine Calkin introduced carbon pricing legislation today backed by Energize RI, a coalition of advocates from the business, environmental and faith communities as well as legislators from neighboring states. According to Energize RI, 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 2017 – 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.
“The need for this legislation has never been more critical,” said Representative Aaron Regunberg. “2016 was the hottest year ever recorded in human history, and the devastating impacts of climate change are already being felt here in Rhode Island. Global warming is literally an existential threat for human civilization on this planet – and yet, we have never had a federal administration more hell bent on ignoring the problem. With Exxon running the state department and climate deniers at every level of Trump’s administration, we must accept that the ambitious climate action necessary to guarantee an inhabitable planet for our children is not going to come from Washington. It can only come from the states, and that’s why I’m proud to be working with legislators here in Rhode Island and across the Northeast to create a regional carbon pricing strategy that will reduce emissions and bring renewable energy and efficiency to scale in our communities.”
“Now is the time for our state to take the lead in fighting climate change,” said first-term Senator Jeanine Calkin. “This legislation will help us do just that. We no longer have the luxury of denying the facts. We must act now.”
Jeff Maulk, from the National Council of Environmental Lawmakers, brought messages from legislators from the neighboring states of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Massachusetts Senator Michael Barrett wrote, “We’ve been pushing hard for carbon pricing in Massachusetts and it’s incredible to see the whole region coming forward on this issue. If we are going to fight back against climate change we will need to do so together.”
Representative Jonathan Steinberg of Connecticut wrote, “I am very excited to be working to introduce carbon pricing legislation – modeled after Rhode island’s bill – in the Connecticut House of representatives. Your Connecticut colleagues applaud Rhode island’s commitment to protecting the health of all of us across New England by considering this carbon-pricing plan. Along with our neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, we hope to join Rhode Island in forging a regional carbon pricing strategy which will ultimately benefit our citizens for generations to come.
According to Energize RI, the program will not increase energy costs for the average Rhode Island family and businesses, and in fact, will reduce costs for all Rhode Islanders in the long term. the bill has been cosponsored by 25 representatives and 10 senators.
Below is Kat Burnham, of People’s Power and Light.
Closing remarks from Brigid Ryan, of Energize RI.