[The following is the testimony presented by Professor Peter Nightingale at the hearings for Energize RI's carbon tax bill (H 7325) introduced by Representative Aaron Regunberg.]
I would like to thank the sponsors of the Energize RI Act for putting carbon tax on the table. This is important legislation, but I cannot support the bill in its current form.
My main objection is that the bill under-taxes natural gas by a factor of 5 to 10, precisely when a perfect fracked-gas storm is about to hit RI:
- The Raimondo administration is pushing for a one GW fracked-gas fired power plant in Burrillville.
- National Grid is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit to build an LNG liquefaction facility at Fields Point.
The Office of Energy Resources will be in charge of large parts of the implementation of this bill. I know from conversations with people in that office that they do not understand that fracked gas is worse for the climate than coal and oil on the time scale that matters.
The Office of Energy Resources bases itself on federal numbers, but:
- EPA has systematically underestimated the amount of natural gas that escapes unburned.
- EPA fails to account properly for the fact that methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
- Undoubtedly, these numbers also pollute the REMI study which, as a consequence is likely to overstate the greenhouse gas reduction that this bill will produce. [See also:
A study of pricing carbon pollution: reality or fiction?]
Indeed, “Methane Leaks Erase Climate Benefit Of Fracked Gas, Countless Studies Find,” was the tittle of a recent publication. This was sparked by a recent Harvard study that found an increase in U.S. methane emissions from 2002–2014. The increase was more than 30% from 2002-2014.
By under-taxing fugitive methane by roughly a factor ten, this bill unintentionally favors natural gas infrastructure development relative to fossil fuels with a smaller greenhouse gas potential. That is precisely the disaster that the Raimondo administration is planning in Burrillville.
Rhode Island cannot solve the emission problem by itself, but we should have a carbon tax bill that can be copied by other states. The Energize Rhode Island Act fails this test.
Please see my lack of support for the Energize RI Act as constructive criticism, and thanks again for your much appreciated efforts.