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The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Analysis


  • The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first carbon-trading program in the U.S., involved 10 states in the Northeast
  • Abt conducted a study, one of the first of its kind, to determine the health impacts of the program
  • Our analysis quantified a reduction in premature deaths, asthma attacks, and other benefits
The Challenge

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was launched to reduce carbon pollution in 10 states in the Northeast: Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. In this first carbon-trading program in the U.S., states sell “emission allowances” and invest the proceeds in the clean-energy economy.

But RGGI’s impact on human health remained unknown.

The Approach

Abt Global conducted one of the first studies to investigate the public health benefits to date of an existing multi-state, market-based carbon control program. Researchers used historical data to:

  • Estimate annual changes in electric generation and emissions of air pollutants at power plants as a result of RGGI implementation from 2009 to 2014;
  • Estimate annual changes in air quality at the county level associated with changes in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and NOx emissions from power plants, by year; and
  • Assess public health impacts associated with changes in air quality due to RGGI implementation from 2009 to 2014.
The Results

Our analysis showed RGGI has significantly reduced air pollution from fossil fuel power plants, improving the health of people in the Northeast. Residents are now experiencing significantly fewer premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses. Moreover, residents of neighboring states not specifically part of RGGI have also seen health benefits from the program.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 300 to 830 lives saved
  • More than 8,200 asthma attacks avoided
  • 39,000 lost work days averted
  • $5.7 billion in health savings and other benefits.

The report provides rigorous, independent evidence that RGGI has been an economic and environmental success, with direct benefits to human health and to states’ economies.

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