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Romney States Support for N.E. Plan To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Scott Helman

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney Monday signaled his support for a regional agreement among Northeast states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite opposition from power companies and other business interests lobbying the administration against the plan.

In opening remarks to a clean-energy conference in Boston, Romney said the first-of-its-kind agreement, under which Massachusetts and eight other states could be required to cut power plant emissions by 2020, will not hurt the economy as some have charged. He argued it would spur businesses to develop clean- and renewable-energy technology to market worldwide.

“This is a great thing for the Commonwealth,” Romney said, his strongest endorsement of the pact to date. “We can effectively create incentives to help stimulate a sector of the economy and at the same time not kill jobs.”

But some companies are worried that the emissions agreement would send energy prices even higher and make Massachusetts less friendly to business, so Romney’s overall support for the initiative could add another wrinkle to his checkered relationship with the corporate community.

“I would certainly hope that the administration would rethink where they’re heading on this,” said Richard C. Lord, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “We think there will be some serious negative impacts on the business climate here.”

Romney said Monday that he had some concerns about the agreement, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but he endorsed this and other clean-energy initiatives by saying they would stimulate the development of technology that Massachusetts companies could sell to other states and countries as the emphasis on climate change grows.

“I’m convinced it is good business,” Romney said. He cited analyses showing that the agreement would boost energy prices by just 1 or 2 percent.

Businesses and environmentalists have been lobbying Romney hard for months on the proposed accord, which, according to a draft proposal released in August, would call for the nine states — the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and New Jersey — to freeze power plant emissions at current levels and reduce emissions by 10 percent by 2020. The effort, led by Governor George Pataki of New York, is seen as recognition by the states that with the federal government not acting to regulate greenhouse gases, it is up to them to ease global warming.

Organizers in each state continue to hammer out a final agreement, expected soon. They will hold a conference call Thursday to discuss the accord in light of higher-than-expected energy costs anticipated for this winter.

“New York and other states are committed to enacting an effective, regional greenhouse gas program that will reduce CO2 emissions from power plants, combat global warming, and improve air quality,” Peter Constantakes, a Pataki spokesman, said in a statement.