WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University political science professor Leigh Raymond believes a nine-state clean air initiative could become a template for environmental public policy around the country. Raymond’s new book Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons examines the eight-year initiative in nine Northeast states.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative began with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont auctioning allowable emissions to polluters for the first time. By 2014, they had raised more than $2 billion in revenues.
“Then that money is used to fund programs that would help the public in terms of reducing energy costs and creating programs to help them,” Raymond said. “You’re still increasing the price of energy consumption, but in the end, for most people, you’re helping them lower their overall energy consumption. You’re achieving environmental goals, but doing it in a way that doesn’t have a major financial impact on most families.”
Raymond noted other cap-and-trade programs become politically difficult and often are criticized for providing private profits rather than public benefits.
The approach has spread with a cap-and-trade program in California. Raymond acknowledges the major challenge will be the industrial Midwest with states such as Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
“One of the keys that made it work was recognizing it was as important to think about consumers as well as about environmental protection. The idea we could actually develop a policy that could give us the environmental improvements and minimize the cost to residents is a key innovation. That’s a message that speaks to every state,” Raymond said.
He believes the book is timely with current political debate and controversy over recent Environmental Protection Agency “Clean Power Plan” regulations instructing states to reduce air pollutants from power plants by more than 30 percent by 2030, where arguments over cap and trade with auction policy designs are likely to be prominent.