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Energy

NYSERDA chief says cap and trade funds will stay put

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Community Environmental Center
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via Flickr
Funds from the sale of carbon credits will go to plug more holes in walls, not holes in New York's budget.

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-956029.mp3

Speaking just weeks after New Hampshire's House voted to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in late February, NYSERDA President Frank Murray says a new report touting the coalition's accomplishments was due.

"We thought it was a good story to tell. RGGI ... up until now hasn't really told this story," Murray notes.

As we reported Tuesday, RGGI's new report makes the case that investments of the regional cap and trade system's proceeds are boosting the member-states' economies - even though a cap and trade strategy has lost favor nationally, over the past several years.

Revenues from the program are primarily being invested in green tech and energy efficiency initiatives. In New York State, $150 million in energy efficiency programs has been targeted to consumers.

But last year, $90 million in RGGI funds were used to patch big holes in the state budget, raising concerns in environmental quarters. Murray says that's not shaping up to happen in this fiscal year.

"There is no proposal ... in the Governor’s budget to sweep any of those RGGI funds," Murray says.

The diversion of $3.1 million from conservation projects to New Hampshire's budget was tagged by RGGI opponents as proof that the program essentially levied a tax on energy, that came out in consumers' utilities bills.

"[T]he diversions don’t undermine the basic success of the program," Dale Bryk, Director of NRDC's Air and Energy program wrote by email, "... keeping more energy dollars in participating states by shifting investments from higher cost power plants (where a large chunk of money goes to import fossil fuels) to lower cost efficiency (where you are paying local workers to weatherize homes, upgrade heating and air-conditioning systems, etc)."

But while keeping RGGI funds in environmental programs in New York is good news for advocates, the bad news is that the proceeds from the coalition are still falling. Murray says lower-than-expected outside investor interest in the program puts the program on track to yield less than $300 million in carbon credit sales - compared to an anticipated $500 million.

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