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States Raid RGGI Funds To Fill Budget Gaps

Troubled by budgetary shortfalls, New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire have reached into a $729-million regional pollution fund to cover their expenses — resources previously committed to green energy and carbon emissions reductions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), according to National Public Radio.

New York took out $90 million, or about half its fund; New Jersey cleaned out all its $65 million and New Hampshire took out $3.1 million. “In all three states, the money was used to pay the state’s bills,” says the NPR report.

The financial resources were generated at cap-and-trade auctions, a mechanism established under the RGGI, a mandatory program that is the nation’s first market-based program for CO2 emissions. In all, ten states signed the agreement which capped annual emissions emitted by fossil-fuel power generators to 188 million tons, and auctioned allowances each quarter.

The auctions generated $729 million through September 2010 for the states.

Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the RGGI memorandum and New Hampshire’s law, cited the difficult economic times and did not rule out hitting the fund again so long as overall emissions goals are being met.

Environmental activists have a different take: “New Jersey has now set the precedent that cap and trade creates some kind of cash cow to help balance the state’s budget whenever we need a bailout. That’s the wrong precedent. It’s the wrong message to send,” said environmental activist Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey.

At least 25 percent of the funds are supposed to pay for energy efficient programs such as weatherization and rebates on newer appliances, but each state has its own laws and regulations governing the funds, according to NPR.

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