Atlantic Highlands – This morning, Gov. Phil Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy, NJDEP Acting Commissioner Catherine McCabe, a crowd of state environmental leaders and activists and members of the Murphy Administration joined together in Atlantic Highlands, which had been severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy more than 5 years ago, to officially announce that New Jersey was rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program, the landmark effort to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants in the Northeast region, which Gov. Christie infamously pulled us out of nearly seven years ago.
Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley, who attended the event, released the following statement in reaction to the news:
“It’s been a long time coming for New Jersey to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nearly seven years after Gov. Christie unilaterally pulled us out of the agreement and three attempts by the New Jersey Legislature for us to rejoin the program, this day of climate action is finally here.
RGGI is a light of climate action in the darkness of climate rollbacks of the Trump era. This is a slam duck on climate action by Gov. Murphy. While RGGI is not a silver bullet to reduce all our carbon emissions, it’s an incredible first step to reduce pollution from our fossil fuel plants and move us to a clean, renewable energy economy. Climate change is not an esoteric issue for the Jersey Shore, and five years after Hurricane Sandy, this move is long overdue to tackle our climate crisis.
Gov. Murphy campaigned vigorously on climate action and repeatedly asserted on the campaign trail that one of his first environmental actions as Governor would be for New Jersey to rejoin the program. He repeatedly talked about the critical nature of not only believing climate science, but taking real steps to tackle global warming. This is a slam dunk on climate action.
In the years since New Jersey has left the program, the program has gotten much stronger and other states, even New Jersey, have reaped the benefits, with more than $773 million in consumer savings through energy efficiency and $5.7 billion in health benefits. In RGGI states, carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants have been reduced by 50 percent since 2005 with $3 billion in net economic benefits, including the creation of 30,000 more jobs. In New Jersey alone if we didn’t rejoin the program, we would lose out on more than $500 million in clean energy investments. RGGI is the program that shows we can expand our clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution.
As the New Jersey Legislature moves forward with the implementation language for RGGI, it will be critical to ensure that funds focus on the programs with the best track record for carbon reductions and to focus specifically focus on the state’s cities and urban neighborhoods that pay the most into the program and are already impacted by the threats of air pollution. We need to ensure that RGGI is implemented in a fair and equitable manner, which is referenced in Gov. Murphy’s just released environmental transition report
RGGI’s origination was formed through bipartisan cooperation in the depths of the Bush Administration inaction on climate during the 2000s. Gov. George Pataki (NY) and Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) helped to build support for the program and New Jersey officially joined the program under Gov. Jon Corzine in 2008. During the program’s existence, New Jersey has been the only state to pull out and there was bipartisan agreement from states last year to strengthen the program. Currently, Virginia is poised to join the agreement, which will strengthen the program. Five years after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York, the need for climate action couldn’t be more clear. According to a Union of Concerned Sciences study from 2017, more than 20 New Jersey towns, primarily along the Shore, will face coastal flooding severe enough in 17 years (2035) to cover 10% of their town’s land mass once every two weeks. The climate crisis for our coastal communities is not going to wait.
RGGI will make investments in our clean energy economy. Even when New Jersey was in the program, Gov. Christie’s administration raided funds that should have been allocated for clean energy programs like energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy like solar and wind power. RGGI is a program that works to not only cap carbon pollution from our power plants, but also to invest in clean energy.
Today’s announcement by Gov. Murphy starts the official process for New Jersey to become a full-throated partner in the regional agreement. Gov. Murphy’s NJ Department of Environmental Protection and Acting NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe will be tasked with proposing the regulations for New Jersey to administer the RGGI program, and participate in the regional RGGI auctions for carbon pollution credits, and establish a New Jersey RGGI program in consultation with RGGI Inc. and the other participating Northeast states.
Environment New Jersey, in the immediate aftermath of Gov. Christie’s decision to unilaterally pull us out of the program, filed litigation with the New Jersey Superior Court, arguing that the Governor had illegally pulled us out of the program. In March 2014, the court agreed with our lawsuit and required Gov. Christie’s administration to follow a regulatory process. In the resulting public hearing at NJDEP, there was overwhelming public support to stay in the program, which was ultimately ignored by the Christie Administration.”