: News

Montgomery County Mulls Carbon Tax

Play associated audio

By Sabri Ben Achour

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Council is considering a tax on carbon emissions that would, in effect, only apply to the county's major coal-fired power plant owned by Mirant Corporation. Councilman Roger Berliner says it would raise $15 million dollars for transit and emission-reducing county programs.

"Certainly we need the revenue," says Berliner. "But it is also fair to expect that the major emitter that contributes to the problems we are spending hard earned taxpayer dollars to address should contribute to solving that problem."

Mirant argues that the tax will make its electricity more expensive, and will push customers to use energy produced by plants based outside of Maryland with fewer pollution controls.

The company also says that it's already paid for it's carbon emissions through what's known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Iniatiave, or RGGI. The initiative is an agreement between ten states, including Maryland, to set a limit on the amount of carbon they can release. Under that plan, emitters such as power plants bid on how much of that pollution pie they can put out.

"It is working exactly as planned: you either buy allowances to cover your emissions, or you curtail operations and don't produce emissions," says Mirant spokesperson Misty Allen.

Dr. Matthias Ruth directs the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland. He agrees that RGGI has worked as planned, but "where the results are on a bit on the disappointing side is that the revenues generated are relatively small and the prices per unit of carbon are relatively low," he says.

Ruth says that's because the cap in this cap and trade experiment hasn't been very ambitious. It doesn't require reductions for at least five to six years, and the planned 10 percent reduction in emissions doesn't take effect until 2020. In part that was because of concerns over how it would affect rate payers and utilities. Ruth says that modelling and preliminary results (the system went into effect only in 2009) have shown that in some cases, utility customers can save money through gains in efficiency.

"There is room to use the market to provide an additional incentive to go beyond the cap that's been established," he says.

According to Ruth, that incentive is the carbon tax proposed by Councilman Berliner.

Allen, the spokesperson for Mirant, says the tax will make Mirant's power more expensive. Customers, Allen says, will source their power outside of Maryland, from plants that don't have as stringent controls on pollution.

NPR

In Pakistan, Literary Spring Is Both Renaissance And Resistance

For the past decade Pakistan has faced war, political instability and the rise of religious extremism. But those crises have fueled a new generation of Pakistani writers and artists.
NPR

Behold Ukrainian Easter Art: Incredible, Inedible Eggs

Even 2,000 years ago, people seemed to know that the egg could be a source of life. And an ancient art form has been passed down, transforming a symbolic source of food into a dazzling decoration.
NPR

Obama's Tax Rate Rose — And He Can't Blame Anyone But Himself

President Obama, like many wealthy Americans, is paying more of his income to the IRS. He and the first lady paid $98,169 in taxes for 2013 on income of $481,098.
NPR

Between Heartbleed And Homeland, NSA Treads Cybersecurity Gray Area

Amid controversy over the Heartbleed security bug, the White House clarified how U.S. intelligence agencies must handle such bugs. Bloomberg Businessweek cybersecurity reporter Michael Riley explains.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.