Cuomo Proposes Lower Carbon Cap for Northeast Cap-and-Trade Plan

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed lowering the total amount of carbon dioxide that companies may emit under a regional cap-and-trade program to regulate air pollution.

The nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative must “make a real difference on climate change by reducing the CO2 cap,” Cuomo said during his State of the State address in Albany today. The cap is currently 165 million tons a year and he didn’t say by how much it should be cut.

That’s 81 percent more than the 91 million tons of the greenhouse gas that were emitted last year in the six New England states along with New York, Delaware and Maryland. RGGI, which holds quarterly auctions for carbon-emission permits, said yesterday it’s reviewing its policies after allowances at last month’s event sold at the minimum bid.

“First thing we have to learn is to accept the fact, and I believe it is a fact, that climate change is real,” Cuomo said. “It’s inarguable that the sea is warmer and that there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.”

Cuomo’s wide-ranging speech also addressed other issues including stricter gun-control policies, a higher minimum wage and looser drug laws.

Permits at the December RGGI auction sold for $1.93. About half of the allowances offered -- 19.8 million of 37.6 million - - were purchased, the fewest since September 2011. Each permit gives a company the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. Emissions have declined about 30 percent from 2005 in the nine RGGI states.

The auction raised $38.1 million. The proceeds fund state renewable-energy efforts and programs that help low-income people pay utility bills, or go into their general funds.

New Jersey exited RGGI in 2011, after the state’s Republican Governor Chris Christie called it a failure because the permits never sold near their projected costs of $20 to $30.

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