Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Policy Makers [November 14, 2014]   [open pdf - 412KB]

"The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the nation's first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. RGGI involves nine states--Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The RGGI cap-and-trade system applies only to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power plants with capacities to generate 25 megawatts or more--approximately 168 facilities. The RGGI emissions cap took effect January 1, 2009, based on an agreement signed by RGGI governors in 2005. The results of the RGGI program may be instructive to policy makers. Several of RGGI's design elements generated considerable interest during the development and debate of federal proposals to address GHG emissions. In particular, the program's emission cap has received particular attention. Since the cap took effect in 2009, it has not compelled regulated entities to make internal emission reductions or purchase emission credits from other sources. Several factors led to this outcome: RGGI's cap design, an economic downturn, and a substantial shift to less carbon intensive fuels. […] As a group, the nine RGGI states account for approximately 7% of U.S. CO2 emissions (and 16% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product). RGGI's aggregate emissions rank in the top 20 among all nations. But from a practical standpoint, the RGGI program's contribution to directly reducing the global accumulation of GHG emissions in the atmosphere is arguably negligible. However, RGGI's activities may stimulate action in other states or at the federal level: when confronted with a growing patchwork of state/regional requirements, industry stakeholders may support a singular national policy. To that end, experiences in RGGI may be instructive for policy makers seeking to craft a national program."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41836
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