As today’s NY Times points out, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a 10-state consortium that’s implementing a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system for the electric power sector—is set to get underway in just nine days:

On Sept. 25, utilities will start bidding at auction for allowances, which they can later sell—mimicking the so-called cap-and-trade programs that effectively reduced acid rain in the 1990s.

It’s a huge milestone: the first legally binding carbon cap and trade program on the continent.

RGGI’s got its flaws, of course.  In particular, it only covers power plants, leaving out the substantial emissions from industry, transportation, and home heating.  Plus, they’re still trying to figure out how to deal with electricity imports; emissions from power that’s imported from other states or from Canada aren’t covered by the RGGI program.  Most troubling, RGGI may even have gotten the initial target-setting exercise wrong; they may have overestimated emissions, meaning that there will be no real reductions during the first year of the program.  (This is the same problem that plagued the EU’s emissions system, but it’s pretty easy to fix after the first year or so.)

Still, despite any problems, a carbon cap is a carbon cap—and my hat’s off to the states that are getting a head start!!