Power plant pollution in the Northeast would decline by more than 20 percent in the next decade under a plan announced today by Northeast and Mid-Atlantic state environmental and energy officials.
New Jersey, however, will miss out on the pollution-cutting benefits of the program. In 2011, Governor Christie pulled the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), refusing to cooperate with the 9 other member states that were working to strengthen and improve the program.
Today, the remaining nine member states stretching from Maine to Maryland announced improvements to RGGI, a regional cap on carbon emissions, following a year-long review of the program. RGGI is the nation’s first cap on carbon from power plants, which took effect in 2009.
“We applaud these officials for leading the way in tackling the pollution that contributes to global warming,” said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey. “Strengthening RGGI is one of the best ways we can lower the emissions that cause global warming. It’s a shame that Governor Christie chose to play politics over protecting the environment and pulled us out of RGGI just a year before it was strengthened to deliver even deeper pollution cuts. Our neighboring states are doing the right thing and reducing their global warming pollution. New Jersey, sadly, is sitting on the sidelines and missing the environmental and economic benefits of this program.”
The proposal announced today would cap emissions from power plants in the region at current annual emission levels (91 million tons). The cap would take effect in 2014 and tighten, requiring emission reductions of 2.5 percent per year.
There was broad support from a broad range of stakeholder for strengthening the program. Last year, a coalition of more than 300 environmental and public health organizations, consumer advocates, and clean energy and mainstream businesses sent a letter to the states’ governors. The letter highlighted RGGI’s success to date and called for strengthening the program’s pollution reduction targets, and increasing investment in clean energy and energy efficiency measures that benefit the climate, the economy, public health and energy consumers.
“Even before Superstorm Sandy, public concern about extreme weather fueled by global warming was on the rise,” said Elliott. “Now, it is even more urgent that the Northeast states do all they can to tackle global warming and ensure that RGGI substantially reduces carbon pollution. We have a strong program that works. It’s time New Jersey get off the sidelines and get back in the game.”