R.I. agrees to develop low-carbon fuel rules

R.I. DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan was one of 11 signatories of a letter signaling the intent of 11 Northeast states to create a new low-carbon fuel standard.
Posted 1/5/09

BOSTON – Rhode Island and 10 other Northeast states have agreed to develop a regional low-carbon fuel standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

R.I. Department of Environmental Management Director W. Michael Sullivan and 10 other top environmental officials signed a Letter of Intent to develop the new fuel standard on Dec. 31. It was released today by Ian Bowles, Massachusetts’ secretary of energy and environmental affairs.

The new standard would require that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of useful energy in fuels be reduced. California is currently developing a similar standard for cars and trucks. The Northeast states’ standard would cover “fuels for vehicles and other uses,” according to Bowles.

To stave off the worst effects of climate change, scientists say greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by approximately 80 percent from 1990 levels by mid-century, state officials said.

Officials hope a regional low-carbon fuel standard will reduce emissions and expand the market for clean energy. The letter also noted that a low-carbon fuel standard would be market-based, and would not pick favorites among the various sources of low-carbon energy available, such as electricity and advanced biofuels.

The 11 signatories to the agreement were the 10 states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – the Northeast states’ new carbon cap-and-trade program – and Pennsylvania.

Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick first invited the governors of the RGGI states to create a regional fuel standard last June.

The letter said the 10 states “commit to participating in an effort to analyze low-carbon fuel supply options and develop a framework for a regional LCFS in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region in order to ensure sustainable use of renewable fuels in the region.”

The officials said they decided to create a regional fuel standard because of “the interconnected nature of the fuel distribution system that currently exists in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic.”

The 11 states will draft a joint Memorandum of Understanding on the new low-carbon fuel program and send it to be signed by their respective governors by the end of this year.

The letter also said the states will collaborate with the nonprofit Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), a group that represents regional air-quality agencies. NESCAUM is already conducting a study of how a regional low-carbon fuel standard would work.

The states also agreed to work with other states and the federal government, and to seek to influence the design of any federal low-carbon fuel standard or other related policy that is proposed.

Along with Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the other RGGI states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cooperative cap-and-trade effort of 10 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Its carbon-trading program is administered by RGGI Inc., a nonprofit corporation created by the 10 participating states. Additional information is available at

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