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Mass. ahead of EPA plan’s emissions goals

BOSTON — Massachusetts, one of nine states participating in a seven-year-old regional emissions cap and trade program, is well ahead of the proposed greenhouse gas reduction goals rolled out Monday by the Obama administration in an attempt to curb pollutants blamed for climate change nationwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency, helmed by Massachusetts native Gina McCarthy, on Monday released a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels over the next 15 years. The federal regulations would give states the ability to craft their own plans to meet the goals, including regional cap and trade programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which Massachusetts participates in.

“This very much validates the effort we’ve been taking with RGGI the last 10 years with all the planning,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Cash said.

While the EPA rule would require a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2030, Cash said Massachusetts is already 40 percent below 1990 levels and on track to have cut power plant emissions by 50 percent by 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions were relatively flat in Massachusetts between 1990 and 2007 when the state joined RGGI.

“The initial numbers are looking like we are well on the path to compliance,” Cash said.

Massachusetts energy officials said gross state product has grown nearly 70 percent since 1990, including continued growth since the end of the recession despite the implementation RGGI.

Under the Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts has its own target for reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships said that in its first three years RGGI led to $1.3 billion in lifetime energy bill savings for utility customers, helped train 2,400 workers in clean energy job skills, and generated $545 million in auction proceeds that went directly to state efficiency programs.

“We believe programs like RGGI present strong evidence that aggressive actions on climate and clean energy can result in significant economic growth, job creation, cleaner energy deployed in their region, and an improved environment,” said New England Clean Energy Council President Peter Rothstein.

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