Wikipedia Evaluation: RGGI

The Wikipedia entry on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is generally accurate, but is plagued by inconsistent updates to reflect more recent developments, small gramatical errors, and missing components.

I chose this entry based on my interest and prior work covering climate change. I had hoped to write about multilateral bank climate change programs, but I could not find a separate Wikipedia page for it. RGGI is a limited program that has policy and politics ramifications. Because I covered it on and off forBNA Daily Environment Report and BNA World Climate Change Report I had the background to asses the Wikipedia article. As it turns out, there was a lot lacking, so there’s a lot to say about it. My Wikipedia user page is here. 

Comprehensiveness:

There are several areas where there is missing information, some of which probably deserves its own subhead and some of which could be incorporated into the existing sections.

Though there is mention of offsets in the History section, the link actually goes to a stub page on something having to do with plant nurseries. There is a long entry on carbon offsets (I haven’t checked how good it is), but the RGGI article should have a section on its own offset program, because different offsets are governed differently, and RGGI is key because in discussions about a federal greenhouse gas emissions program, there was much discussion about whether or not RGGI offsets would be accepted as offsets in a future federal system.

  • Auction

There is no information about how the auction actually is run including  the bidding process and how prices are dertermined.

  • Historical Context

It is bizarre to me that there is no mention that RGGI is the first government-mandated cap and trade system for carbon dioxide in the United States. Though it was preceded by voluntary programs such as the (now defunct) Chicago Climate Exchange, RGGI was the first government-legislated C02 cap and trade system.

  • Federal Context

A lot of the state legislation initiating RGGI participation specifically states the absence of federal legislation as an impetus for forming and joining RGGI. There should be a few sentences about the fact that RGGI, in some senses, rose up as a poor man’s substitute for a federal program, with states joining together because the federal government could not come to an agreement.

Along those lines, I would have included information about pre-emption. Though it currently seems unlikely that a federal cap and trade system will be implemented, it should be noted that most proposed federal cap and trade systems would have pre-empted RGGI, and that most RGGI participants see pre-emption as a goal. Furthermore, RGGI participants and designers expect to be, and often were, consulted in the design of a federal program.

Especially given that RGGI Inc. is the main source of information on this website, there should be some explanation of the group, which monitors the market and provides technical assistance for the auctions and implementing the program.

  • Up To Date, Detailed Information.

This is a problem that ends up affecting both the comprehensiveness of the entry and the readability (see below).

      • There have been 13 RGGI allowance auctions, but only the first four of them are listed. It’s not clear to me that the details of every RGGI auction should be listed, but at least the most recent ones should be listed. If you are going to decide that details should be listed, then all of them should be listed, and it should probably be in some sort of table for ease of readability.
      • The types of programs that RGGI proceeds are spent on go beyond what is listed in the intro to include environment programs not directly related to energy efficiency such as forest preservation and water efficiency. Most notably, there is no mention of the fact that for many states, some of the proceeds are returned to consumers as a way of keeping electricity bills from rising because of the new regulation. These things are listed in individual state regulation, though some is listed in the original press release linked on the Wikipedia page.
      • There is no mention about New Hampshire’s recent vote  (and the Governor’s subsequent veto) to withdraw from RGGI, and there could be more information about why New Jersey is withdrawing at the end of this compliance period.
      • There should be information about the second compliance period, especially given that allowances for that compliance period have already been auctioned.

Sourcing

This entry relies heavily on RGGI Inc. documentation, this is–in and of itself–not a problem but there are probably more regularly updated sources than the original RGGI news releases. It might be that the best coverage of RGGI is in trade publications behind a paywall, making it hard to get the detailed news coverage. The other sources are mainly from mainstream news organizations, though several just have the link without the information about the article that would be called for by citation standards. There also three broken links in the footnotes.

Neutrality

The article is written from a neutral point of view, even though there is potential for bias in the parts about states deciding whether or not to join or leave RGGI.

Readability

  • Organization

I would  slightly reorganize the top of the article so that information about what emitter s are covered is at the top and so that the other compliance periods are mentioned. (Or I would move information about the compliance periods out of the intro).

In the history section, the article would benefit from sentences that have a better flow and read less like bullet points.

  • Grammar 

There are several grammatical mistakes such as missing words and lack of parellel structure (e.g. in the information about the specific RGGI auctions). There are also some verb tense problems that look like they arose from an editor updating some parts of the article but not others. For example,  the second sentence of the article says “The RGGI is designing a cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants” even though the rest of the article makes it clear that the program has already been designed and implemented.

Formatting and Illustrations

The article does appear to adhere to the Wikipedia Manual of Style. There is a problem with sometimes referring to the program as “RGGI” and sometimes as “The RGGI.” Either is technically correct, but one should be used consistently throughout. (I vote for RGGI. The RGGI is  The map of RGGI participants is a helpful illustration. I can’t think of other illustrations that would enhance the article.

Overall, the RGGI article feels somewhat abandoned as it has not been updated in a consistent manner as more information has been provided. However, much of the structure for a solid article on RGGI is already present.

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