Trenton—After announcing its intentions to do so in May, the Christie Administration today formally proposed to once again prevent New Jersey from participating in the regional program known as RGGI that limits dangerous climate-changing pollution from power plants. This action comes despite the New Jersey Legislature twice voting to keep New Jersey in the program, overwhelming bipartisan support for pollution limits from state residents, and a court ruling earlier this year that a previous attempt to dodge the limits was done illegally.
The administration published a proposal in the New Jersey State Register today to formally repeal the rules implementing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an innovative and successful nine-state program that has been reducing climate-changing carbon pollution from East Coast power plants for the last five years. Recent analysis shows that the program has already helped cut regional climate pollution by about one-third, while bringing in billions of dollars in economic benefits, and creating jobs – tens of thousands of person-years of employment.
“Governor Christie keeps putting the interests of big out-of-state polluters ahead of the health of the New Jersey public,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Governor Christie’s proposal is short-sighted. Instead of repealing these rules, Governor Christie should be helping to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of global warming.”
The administration has not been enforcing these rules since Governor Christie withdrew from the program in 2011. However, in response to a lawsuit brought by Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled in March that the administration had acted illegally in making such a major change in policy without providing an opportunity for public participation. Today’s action is an attempt to repeal the policy in accordance with the law.
Environment New Jersey and NRDC encourage the public to comment
New Jersey residents have an opportunity to weigh in on the administration’s move to exit the program this time around. Environment New Jersey and NRDC encourage residents to share their opinions on whether or not Christie should abandon the program by September 5 by visiting http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments. (Refer to DEP Docket Number 04-14-15, and include name and affiliation.)
Residents can also give comments in person at a public hearing that will be held Friday, August 8, at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, First Floor Hearing Room, 401 E. State Street in Trenton.
RGGI can help New Jersey comply with forthcoming federal pollution standards
In response to the threat posed by global warming, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the Clean Power Plan, the first national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants, a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. New Jersey (and all other states) will be required to develop proposals to meet the goals set by those standards by 2016. If they don’t, the EPA will develop a generic plan they can adopt.
“Despite all of the warning signs—and the chorus of New Jersey residents and government leaders urging him to stop—Governor Christie is continuing down on a path that ends on the wrong side of history,” said Dale Bryk, Deputy Director of Programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Christie can keep burying his head in the sand, but the people of New Jersey—and the nation—will not.”
RGGI has been an environmental – and economic – success
Designed by a bipartisan group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic governors in the mid-2000s, RGGI has significantly helped reduce carbon pollution, while at the same time supporting economic development, creating new jobs and saving consumers money on energy in the nine states that currently participate.
According to a recent report by Environment Northeast (ENE), RGGI has already helped:
- Reduce carbon pollution by almost 30 percent;
- Cut electricity prices by 8 percent;
- Create more than 23,000 job-years of work;
- Lock in more than $1.8 billion in long-term savings on energy bills; and
- Add more than $2.4 billion in economic activity to the region.
When withdrawing from RGGI in 2011, Governor Christie acknowledged that climate change is real and that it is already having an impact on New Jersey, but expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the program—but the facts now speak for themselves.
“RGGI is an economic engine and pollution-cutting powerhouse,” said Bryk. “New Jersey deserves the same benefits its neighbors are seeing from RGGI—from less air pollution, to more jobs and lower electric bills.”
Action on climate is urgent—and New Jersey residents support it
Earlier this year, the Obama administration released the third National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive report yet on the impacts of climate change on the United States. The report was a combined effort of more than 200 scientific experts across the country with input from more than a dozen federal agencies from the National Science Foundation to the Defense Department. It issues grave warnings about the current and future impacts of climate change, including extreme weather like heat waves, downpours, hurricanes and flooding.
Also earlier this year, scientists announced that the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet had accelerated, increasing the risk that it will raise sea levels more than 10 feet in coming centuries. Rising seas on that scale would flood most of the Cape May peninsula, all of Atlantic City, and the Newark International Airport, reshaping New Jersey’s coastline. Sandy-scale coastal flooding is already twice as likely now as it was in 1950 because of warming-driven sea-level rise.
As people learn more about the threat posed by global warming, support for action on climate continues to rise. For example, last year a Stanford University study showed nationwide support for limits on global warming pollution from power plants – including more than 80 percent of New Jerseyans – support that spans across both major political parties.
Environment New Jersey is a state-based, citizen-supported, environmental advocacy organization representing more than 20,000 citizen members, working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future. Our staff and members work to protect the places we love, advance the values we share, and win real results for our environment. Visit us at www.environmentnewjersey.org.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.