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Carbon pricing wins in state elections

08 Nov 2017 15:48 GMT
Carbon pricing wins in state elections

Washington, 8 November (Argus) — The use of carbon pricing in the US to reduce the risks from climate change is likely to expand following the outcome of yesterday's elections in three states.

The winners of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia have said they plan to bring their states into the northeast US Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade program, while a special election in Washington state will give Democrats control of the Legislature, making it easier for its governor to pursue long-sought carbon pricing policies.

The results will mean the expansion of state action on climate change, as President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt seek to pull back federal efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy easily defeated lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno (R) 55pc-43pc in the race to succeed governor Chris Christie (R). Murphy made clean energy and climate policy a significant part of his campaign and has pledged to return the state to RGGI following its withdrawal by Christie in 2011.

In his victory speech last night, Murphy said that increasing investments in clean energy would be among his top goals. New Jersey should push back against the "polluters running the EPA."

"Governors have never mattered more," he said.

Democrats, who control the state Legislature, have staged a number of attempts to require New Jersey to rejoin RGGI, only to be blocked by Christie each time.

Virginia lieutenant governor Ralph Northam's (D) 54pc-45pc win in that state's gubernatorial race will allow state regulators to move forward with new CO2 limits for power plants and link with RGGI. Northam's opponent, Republican Ed Gillespie, had opposed "the regulatory assault on our coal sector" and likely would have moved to scrap the regulations had he won.

Virginians "want to live in an environment where the air and water are clean," Northam said.

The state Air Pollution Control Board will review the proposal next week. It would require Virginia power plants to cut emissions by 30pc from 2020-2030, matching the CO2 cap reduction proposed by the nine current RGGI states in August.

In Washington state, Democrat Manka Dhingra with 55pc of the vote won a special election for a state Senate seat previously held by a Republican. Her victory gives Democrats control of the Senate. The party already holds a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

Governor Jay Inslee (D) has said he plans to use the new Democratic majority to pass carbon pricing legislation he has unsuccessfully pushed for since taking office in 2013, including cap-and-trade and carbon-tax proposals.

Dhingra has said the state needs to be a leader "when it comes to curbing carbon emissions and addressing climate change."

In congratulating Dhingra, Inslee said he looks forward "to action on some issues that have stalled for too long."

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