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The Associated Press May 12, 2011, 10:01AM ET

Delaware bill to quit regional climate pact stalls

Members of the House Energy Committee voted Wednesday to keep a bill in committee that would seek to end Delaware's participation in a regional program aimed at curbing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

After a hearing lasting nearly two hours, committee members voted to table the measure, meaning they would not release it for discussion by the full House. The proposal seeks an end to Delaware's participation in the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI, or "Reggie."

Under RGGI, the amount of carbon dioxide that power plants are allowed to discharge annually is capped, but electricity generators can buy carbon "credits" in auctions in order not to exceed their allowances of so-called greenhouse gases blamed for Earth's warming atmosphere.

Supporters of the bill argue that the cap-and-trade program is contributing to higher electricity costs for homeowners and businesses in Delaware. They also say it is not needed because carbon dioxide emissions from Delaware plants already have fallen more than the 10 percent reduction goal established in the RGGI.

Opponents of RGGI also argue that energy efficiency and conservation programs run with the help of some $21 million in auction proceeds that have flowed to Delaware have not been well administered.

"The goals have been met, the programs are not going well, the money has been wasted," said David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness of the Caesar Rodney Institute, a conservative think tank.

But opponents of the measure say the RGGI program has proven beneficial in helping to drive energy efficiency initiatives in Delaware, and that the cost for the average residential utility customer related to RGGI is only about $4 a year.

State environmental secretary Collin O'Mara said the vast majority of every dollar spent on energy in Delaware goes for supply and delivery costs, with RGGI accounting for only a tiny fraction of the bill.

"We're talking about RGGI right now, but there are many other cost drivers we need to focus on," he said.

"Overall, we believe that at this early stage, it makes sense to continue the program rather than repeal it," O'Mara added.

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