Rhode Island is among nine Northeastern states poised to revise regulations that will substantially lower allowable emissions of carbon dioxide, with the goal of putting the changes into effect by January 2014, said Frank Stevenson, supervising air-quality specialist for the R.I. Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Air Resources.
The impending changes are a result of updated guidelines, called the model rule, released Feb. 7 by the states that are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
“This new model rule will be used by the nine states to lower the cap on greenhouse gas emissions by about 45 percent,” Stevenson said.
The cap on emissions in the nine member states will be reduced from the previous level of 165 million tons to 91 million tons in 2014, according to RGGI, a cooperative regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that includes Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
“When you talk about greenhouse gases, it’s a global issue, so this is one step Rhode Island is taking, along with all of the member states,” said Stevenson.
Several factors influenced the lowering of the previous 165 million ton cap. The 91 million tons about matches the current emissions, he said.
“All of the projections that were originally done made assumptions about future emissions,” Stevenson said. The weak economy lowered the demand for electricity and using cleaner-burning natural gas to generate power has become more economically feasible, he said.
The lower cap on emissions brings the plans more in line with the economics of energy production, but there’s still a long way to go in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, he said.