Acid Rain Retirement Fund

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The Acid Rain Retirement Fund (A.R.R.F) is an all-volunteer, non-profit environmental educational organization dedicated to reducing pollution by purchasing and “retiring” marketable sulfur dioxide emissions allowances issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Acid Rain Program. A.R.R.F. was created in 1995 and purchased its first allowances in that year. A.R.R.F. provides citizens with information about access to pollution markets, along with the ability to directly prevent pollution.

A.R.R.F is one of only four organizations listed on the home page of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Markets as purchasing allowances to take them off the market. [1] None of the major national environmental groups are listed there. A.R.R.F. is incorporated in the State of Maine as a nonprofit educational organization.

Marketable emissions allowances[edit]

Pursuant to the Clean Air Act of 1990,[2] each year in March the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency auctions off to the highest bidder about 250,000 pollution allowances that enable companies to emit one ton of sulfur dioxide. Those companies face statutory penalties of $2,000/ton for every ton of sulfur dioxide they emit in excess of those for which they own allowances.[3] Emissions allowances are bought and sold daily through the Chicago Board of Trade like soybeans, rice or any other commodity. Only a limited number of allowances are available each year. After those allowances are used, no more can be issued. The Acid Rain Retirement Fund raises money and bids alongside polluters in the annual auctions for as many allowances as their funds can buy. But instead of using or trading them, A.R.R.F. retires them permanently, taking allowances off the market and keeping sulfur dioxide out of the air. Thus, every pollution allowance A.R.R.F. removes from circulation prevents that pollution from being legally emitted into the air.

A teaching moment[edit]

Sulfur dioxide is the principal contributor to acid rain, causing respiratory disorders, impairing visibility, harming the health of fish and wildlife, and degrading lakes and ponds. [4][5][6][7] Research has shown lakes and streams in New England have been slow to recover from the effect of acid rain, compared to some in Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania.[8][9][10] Acid rain brings with it mercury deposition, and together they cause tremendous damage to human health and the environment. Research by the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation recently identified nine suspected mercury hotspots in the northeastern U.S. and Canada.[11] Harvard University economist Robert Stavins estimates about $1 billion per year has been saved in the United States by cleaning up since the Acid Rain Program went into effect.[12][13]

Educational programs[edit]

The Acid Rain Retirement Fund uses participation in pollution markets as a way to educate children and adults about the sources and detrimental effects of air pollution and acid rain, and actions people can take to reduce such pollution. Presentations are made in school classrooms about the causes and effects of acid rain, and students are encouraged to design their own fundraising efforts. The A.R.R.F. website [14] contains links about acid rain and suggestions for educational activities and fundraising efforts.

Accomplishments to date[edit]

A.R.R.F. has participated in annual EPA auctions of emissions allowances every year since 1995, and in 2013 owns the right to emit 1,413 tons of sulfur dioxide per year, plus whatever amount it has not emitted in previous years. Because A.R.R.F. did not exercise its right to emit any pollution during 1996-2013, “banking” its emissions allowances for the future, A.R.R.F. in 2013 holds the legal right to emit a total of 2,322 tons (4,644,000 pounds) of sulfur dioxide in 2013. That amount will increase by another 100 tons in 2018, when allowances A.R.R.F. purchased in the 7-year advance auction of 2011 are eligible for use. [15]

According to A.R.R.F., EPA auction results 1993-2013 indicate groups or individuals who purchased emissions allowances for purposes other than releasing air pollution own the right to emit 3,188 tons per year of sulfur dioxide.[15] Although most have purchased only one or a few tons, this adds up to considerably more than the 760 tons/year allocated by law to the Miami Fort #5 generating unit in Ohio.[16]

Since many purchases were made in earlier years, and unused allowances have accumulated, these groups now own the right to emit 23,012 tons of sulfur dioxide in 2013.[15] That’s more than the annual allocation of allowances to 168 of the 250 dirtiest generating units in the United States (some are allowed to emit almost 95,000 tons/year).[16]

Fund raising[edit]

Fund raising projects organized by A.R.R.F. with other groups in fifteen states include a paper recycling drive by eighth graders; sale of blue paper cut-out raindrops at 50 cents each to friends and family by middle-schoolers (who put them on classroom walls with names of purchasers on them); benefit concerts; bake sales, and direct funding requests to businesses and individuals. Funds have been donated by individuals and groups from all over the United States, including sixth-grade students at South Kortright Central School in South Kortright, NY; Queensbury Middle School in Queensbury, NY; Lynx House, Conserve School, Land O’ Lakes, WI; Students for Environmental Action, East Lansing High School, East Lansing, MI; Jesuit High School 6th Graders, New Orleans, LA; Humboldt State University Natural Resources Club, Humboldt, CA; and the Environmental Law Council at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Donations have also been received from groups in Sweden and Japan.[17]

Clean air certificates[edit]

Since 1995, A.R.R.F. has recognized donations of $25 or more by sending a Clean Air Certificate on parchment-like paper to the donor or a person or group they designate, saying how many pounds of air pollution will be retired in their name. Numerous school classrooms display these certificates.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Airmarkets, [accessed 12/30/08]
  2. ^ Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 42 U.S. Code §7651 et seq.
  3. ^ Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 42 U.S. Code §7651j.
  4. ^ U.S. Interagency Task Force on Acid Precipitation. Acidic deposition: State of the science and technology. Summary Report of the U.S. National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.
  5. ^ Ziegenfus, Robert C. “Air quality and health. In Public health and the environment: The United States experience, edited by Michael R. Greenberg. New York: Guilford Press, 1987, 139-174.
  6. ^ American Lung Association. Health effects of ambient air pollution. New York: American Lung Association, 1989.
  7. ^ “Study links plant emissions, deaths.” Portland Press Herald. May 5, 2000, 5B.
  8. ^ Goad, Meredith. “Acidity levels in Maine lakes fail to improve.” Maine Sunday Telegram. December 1, 2002, 12A.
  9. ^ Jansen, Bart. “Northeast still high in acid in waters, soil.” Portland Press Herald. March 26, 2001, A1.
  10. ^ “Group casts new light on EPA acid rain program.” Air Daily. 8:1-2. March 27, 2001.
  11. ^ Driscoll, C.T., D. Evers, K.F. Lambert, N. Kamman, T. Holsen, Y-J. Han, C. Chen, W. Goodale, T. Butler, T. Clair, and R. Munson. 2007. Mercury Matters: Linking Mercury Science with Public Policy in the Northeastern United States. Hubbard Brook Research Foundation. Science Links Publication. Vol. 1, no. 3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-22. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  [accessed 12/30/08]
  12. ^ Stavins, Robert N. 1998. "What Can We Learn from the Grand Policy Experiment? Positive and Normative Lessons from SO2 Allowance Trading." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(Summer): 69-88.
  13. ^ Carlson, Curtis, Dallas Burtraw, Maureen Cropper, and Karen L. Palmer. 2000. “Sulfur dioxide control by electric utilities: What are the gains from trade?” Journal of Political Economy 108: 1292-1326.
  14. ^ Acid Rain Retirement Fund homepage. [accessed 8/18/13]
  15. ^ a b c Acid Rain Retirement Fund homepage; ARRF News, Press release April 1, 2013. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2013-08-19. [accessed 8/18/13]
  16. ^ a b Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 42 U.S. Code §7651c(c) Table A.
  17. ^ a b Acid Rain Retirement Fund homepage [accessed 8/18/13]

External links[edit]