Community Members Call for RGGI To Ramp Down Pollution, Protect and Benefit Disadvantaged Communities
For Immediate Release-November 9th, 2016
Springfield, Mass.–Following a long election night, Springfield residents filled the room at a public hearing on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Northeast’s carbon trading program. Community members shared their stories of struggling with health problems related to pollution and urged the state to use the ongoing RGGI program review to make the program stronger and more just.
“All of us who live in Springfield know firsthand that pollution hurts our communities”, said Jesse Lederman, Environmental Organizing Consultant with Arise for Social Justice and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition “Our families are struggling with everything from low wages to asthma to the threat of climate change. We’re here because we believe the state should be using RGGI as a tool to protect communities like ours, and to help the state meet its climate goals.”
At the meeting, sponsored by MassDEP and MassDoER, more than 30 local leaders called for Massachusetts to support the strongest possible cap on pollution under RGGI; to analyze the equity issues faced by communities living in the shadow of coal, gas and oil power plants; and to more heavily invest the money made under RGGI in disadvantaged communities and programs like low-income energy efficiency and community solar.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the first binding cap-and-trade program in the US, and aims to limit carbon dioxide from the power sector. But Lederman explained, “carbon trading programs like RGGI don’t control what happens in any one community, and aren’t designed with communities like ours in mind or with justice as a goal. Springfield is designated by the EPA and by the state of Massachusetts as an environmental justice community. That’s why we need Massachusetts to make sure that RGGI not only reduces pollution as quickly as possible, but that overburdened and disadvantaged communities experience those reductions and benefit from the program.”
“Until today, frontline and overburdened communities were largely excluded from RGGI decisionmaking in Massachusetts” said Katelyn Parady of Community Action Works, a New England nonprofit that organizes side by side with communities to cleanup and prevent pollution. “The people of Springfield made themselves heard tonight. Now, the state needs to listen and make sure all communities — especially those that are polluted and disadvantaged — have a say in how RGGI works, experience less pollution because of RGGI, and benefit from the money made under RGGI.
Also testifying at the hearing was Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez, who said “Resources like the RGGI are ideal in Environmental Justice communities like Springfield. Learning about the resources, and how this program can be effective in Springfield is key, and I will continue fighting for the residents of Springfield to make it a healthier place to live.”
Gomez was joined by Sarita Hudson of the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, Dr. Marty Nathan, a neighborhood health center physician, Jafet Robles of Neighbor to Neighbor, and Springfield resident Roxanne Langevin. Dr. Mary Booth of the Partnership for Policy Integrity and Jordan Stutt from the Acadia Center also testified.