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New Jerseyans Demand Action on Climate: Citizens Speak Out in Favor of RGGI

For Immediate Release

Trenton—Concerned citizens, parents, elected officials, health professionals, clean energy business owners and environmental advocates gathered today to speak out against a Christie Administration proposal to repeal rules implementing a program to clean up global warming pollution from power plants – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“This is about our children’s future,” said Trisha Sheehan, New Jersey Field Organizer with Moms Clean Air Force. “We need Gov. Christie to step up and lead on climate, not step back.”

Governor Christie unilaterally ended New Jersey’s participation in RGGI 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 hearing, held at the Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Trenton, provided an opportunity for New Jerseyans to make their voices heard.

“It is imperative that New Jersey re-join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “The power plant limitations put in place under RGGI are an important piece of our regional answer to carbon pollution.”

Mom’s Clean Air Force organized a “play-in” at a nearby park, where children made signs, played with a parachute and inflatable earth-shaped beach balls, and then marched over to the hearing. The event symbolized what is at stake – the well-being of future generations.

RGGI Could Help New Jersey Comply with the Clean Power Plan

In response to the threat posed by global warming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the Clean Power Plan, the first national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants and accelerate the transition to clean energy. New Jersey (and all other states) will be required to develop proposals to meet the goals set by those standards by 2016, or accept a generic plan developed by EPA.

“RGGI is a program that undoubtedly benefited New Jersey’s environment and its economy,” said John McKeon (D-West Orange), Vice-Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee. “Putting his lack of insight on both fronts on full display, Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of it. We’ve seen job creation stemming from RGGI in neighboring states whose governors know that going green on policy means getting green into state coffers.”

Governor Christie and his administration have stated – incorrectly – that New Jersey will not have to do anything additional to comply with the policy. In emails responding to concerned citizens, Governor Christie has written: “New Jersey is ahead of the proposed standards.” And Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, echoed this opinion in remarks to the Asbury Park Press.

However, EPA modeling suggests that New Jersey would actually have to cut its power plant emissions by almost 60 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030 in order to successfully achieve its targets under the Clean Power Plan. (See Attached Figure.) The Christie administration will have to develop a real strategy to meet the requirements of the policy – and rejoining RGGI is the obvious solution. The infrastructure of the program is already developed, New Jersey has a history of participation, and it generates revenue that the state can use to accelerate its transition to clean energy and make the goals of the Clean Power Plan easier to achieve.

Sitting on the Sidelines of RGGI is a Missed Opportunity for New Jersey

RGGI has proven to be successful on many levels in the nine states that currently participate. It is helping to reduce carbon pollution, while at the same time supporting economic development, creating new jobs and saving consumers money on energy.

A big part of RGGI’s positive impact on the economy comes because it replaces expenditures for fuel from out-of-state with local clean energy resources, like energy efficiency.

“Programs like RGGI allow a 43 year old company like ours to create new jobs, stimulate the economy and to ultimately reduce greenhouse gasses while cutting energy use,” said Scott Needham, President of Princeton Air and Efficiency First. “I urge the administration to rejoin RGGI and accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy.”

According to a recent report by ENE (Environment Northeast) and by RGGI Inc., since it launched in 2009, 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.

Independent analysts predict that RGGI will generate $8.7 billion in economic growth and 132,000 job-years of employment in participating states over the next 10 years, while cutting power plant pollution by another 20 percent. By sitting on the sidelines, New Jersey is missing out on these benefits.

Cleaning up Pollution Can Reduce the Risks Posed by Global Warming

“Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now,” said Jim Miller, Professor of Oceanography at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “And it is already having an impact on New Jersey, from accelerating sea-level rise to more heavy rainfall events and potentially stronger hurricanes.”

The average temperature in New Jersey is about 2° F warmer now than it was in the late 19th century – and sea levels are about a foot higher. Sandy-scale coastal flooding is already twice as likely now as it was in 1950 because of warming-driven sea-level rise. How bad the problem gets depends on how quickly and how deeply humanity can reduce emissions of global warming pollution.

“Most data I’ve seen says that 80 percent of New Jerseyans are concerned about global warming, and that something should be done to curb carbon emissions,” said Lee Farnham, Chair of the Ewing Environmental Commission and Board Member of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. “Based on those people who have signed our petition to have New Jersey rejoin RGGI, I’d say the figure is more like 90 percent.”      

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Environment New Jersey is a state-based, citizen-supported, environmental advocacy organization, 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.

Moms Clean Air Force is a community of hundreds of thousands of moms—and dads!—working together to combat air pollution, including the urgent crisis of our changing climate. Find out more at www.momscleanairforce.org.