Trenton—New analysisby Environment Northeast (ENE) shows that by declining to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, New Jersey is leaving environmental and economic benefits on the table. Other northeast and mid-Atlantic states are requiring power companies to pay for the global warming pollution that they emit, leading to reductions in pollution and generating billions to fund clean energy.
“Sitting on the sidelines of RGGI is a huge missed opportunity for New Jersey,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Market Initiatives with ENE.
Since New Jersey withdrew from the program in 2011, the state has passed up more than $114 million in potential revenue. In the latest RGGI auction held on September 3rd, participating states raised $88 million, and New Jersey would have taken in $11.6 million if the state were still participating in RGGI. By 2020 New Jersey could miss out on another $387 million. To put that into context, investing this $500 million of lost revenue in energy efficiency could generate savings equivalent to the output of all of New Jersey’s coal plants from 2010-2012.
New Jersey is Missing Out on Economic Benefits
“New Jersey’s neighbors are boosting their economies by cleaning up power plants,” said Scott Needham, President of Princeton Air and Efficiency First. “RGGI is helping to reduce pollution, while at the same time supporting economic development, creating new jobs and saving consumers money on energy. But we’re missing out.”
RGGI generates economic benefits by replacing expenditures on fuel from out-of-state with local clean energy resources, like energy efficiency. According to recent reports by ENE and by RGGI Inc., since it launched in 2009, RGGI has helped the nine participating states to:
- Cut electricity prices by 8 percent;
- Lock in more than $1.8 billion in long-term savings on energy bills; and
- Avoid 8 million tons of lifetime emissions, the equivalent of taking 1.4 million cars off the road
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 15 percent. By sitting on the sidelines, New Jersey is missing out on these benefits.
The State’s Power Plants Face No Limits on Global Warming Pollution
New Jersey’s neighbors, including Delaware and New York, limit the amount of global warming pollution their power plants can emit. That limit goes down every year. As a result, power companies are reducing their emissions and planning for a transition to clean energy.
States that participate in RGGI have reduced power plant global warming pollution by 18 percent since the program started in 2009. However, New Jersey power plants haven’t faced a limit on their emissions since 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that under current policy, New Jersey’s power plant pollution would climb by almost 70 percent by 2030.
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.
“If New Jersey is going to comply with the newly proposed Clean Air Act rules and help reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent nationwide, rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the logical first step,” 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.”
The report released today suggests that New Jersey would likely comply with the Clean Power Plan by rejoining RGGI.
New Jersey Citizens Support RGGI
Over the past two months, thousands of citizens have written or spoken to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in support of restoring the state’s participation in RGGI. The comments were submitted in response to a formal public comment period on the Christie Administration’s proposal to repeal the state’s RGGI regulations.
In March, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that the Christie Administration acted illegally when withdrawing from RGGI without seeking public comment on such a major change in policy. The ruling followed a lawsuit brought by Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
At a public hearing held in August, only one speaker opposed RGGI and action on global warming – while nearly 50 supported participating in the program, including many parents and children. Speakers noted that climate scientists agree that climate change is happening here and now; and that 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.
“Governor Christie should listen to his constituents,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “In a post-Sandy New Jersey, we can’t afford to ignore climate change. The New Jersey public is hugely in favor of taking action on climate, not sitting on our hands.”
ENE’s analysis, New Jersey and RGGI: Potential Benefits of Renewed Participation, is available at: http://www.env-ne.org/resources/detail/nj-rggi-fact-sheet
ENE is a non-profit organization that researches and advocates innovative policies that tackle our environmental challenges while promoting sustainable economies. ENE is at the forefront of state and regional efforts to combat global warming with solutions that promote clean energy, clean air and healthy forests. www.env-ne.org
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.