AUGUSTA, (AP) – By an overwhelming vote Friday, the House of Representatives approved legislation to include Maine in a regional effort to control greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system.

The bill, a reworked version of legislation submitted by Gov. John Baldacci, was endorsed by a 120-7 roll call vote in the House a day after a similarly lopsided vote in favor. It faces further House and Senate votes.

It would include Maine in the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first cap and trade program of its kind. The regional effort is intended to reduce pollution from the region’s power plants by 10 percent over a decade through 2018.

By authorizing the initiative, the Legislature would endorse Baldacci’s commitment to enter into RGGI. The legislation would require Maine’s six largest power plants to pay for the right to release carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas most blamed for global warming.

The legislation also directs major new investments in energy efficiency which will help lower electricity costs for Maine consumers and reduce the need to run local power plants.

Under the bill, Maine’s pro rata share of the total allowed emissions for 2009 is 5.9 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Maine’s limit would drop to slightly more than 5.3 million tons in 2018.

Michael Stoddard, deputy director of Environment Northeast, a nonprofit advocacy group that supports RGGI, said Maine’s legislation “is a model for other U.S. states and Canadian provinces to follow.”

Stoddard’s group said the bill moved forward when key businesses, environmental groups, Baldacci and legislative leaders worked together to iron out complex details, such as how to allocate money from the sale of pollution permits, which many of the other RGGI states have yet to work out.

The Maine bill moved forward as President Bush urged international cooperation in cutting the gases that trap heat on the Earth.

Bush proposal Thursday that the United States and other nations responsible for most heat-trapping emissions sit down and develop a long-term strategy drew praise from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

“While he has not hit a walk-off home run, I truly welcome him onto the field,” Snowe said in a statement. “There is a great urgency here and the United States must be a leader in building a universal solution.”

AP-ES-06-01-07 1737EDT


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