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Report: Regional Carbon Reduction Program Yielding Benefits for Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine - A new report finds that the nation's first market-based program to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from new and existing power plants is achieving success by every measure possible.

The report by the Analysis Group finds that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI for short, has reduced carbon emissions by a third, created more than 14,000 jobs, mostly temporary, in the 10 states it covers, and has plowed nearly $2 billion in proceeds back into the economy in each state.

Those proceeds were generated by power companies' purchase of carbon dioxide allowances when they exceed pollution limits.

Susan Tierney, one of the report's authors, says Maine's economy received a gain worth $122 million over the past three years.

"Eighty-six percent of the dollars, or about $27 million, was spent on energy efficiency," Tierney says, "so that meant that the state was hiring people to put in insulation, to purchase more efficient lighting. So it was pretty good for Maine."

In addition, Tierney says, another 3 percent of the proceeds were spent on giving customers a credit on their electricity bills.

RGGI began in 2009 when 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states undertook the approach. This is the second report on its progress, and Tierney says it did come with some reassurance.

"It wasn't a surprise because we saw it in the first report we did," she says, "but we were still really thrilled and impressed that these investments in energy efficiency really give you a double bang for the buck. They give you lower electricity bills and they give you the economic gains in the economy."

Tierney says one of the greatest findings is that RGGI can be used as a model for other states that are considering ways to comply with the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.