Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chris Christie Illegally Cancelled NJ Regional Greenhouse Gas Iniatiative

A New Jersey court ruled Tuesday that the Christie administration broke the law when it excused power plants from complying with regulations limiting dangerous climate-changing pollution. The three-judge panel ruled  that Christie’s administration broke state law in 2011 when it withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled in favor of Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a lawsuit the organizations brought against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2012.

The Christie administration did not go through any formal rulemaking procedures before pulling out of the carbon-cutting program. Instead, administration officials stated on a government website that the state wouldn’t participate in the program — and then argued in court that the online statement was sufficient public outreach under state law.

The RGGI is a carbon-trading program that caps greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The RGGI has sold about $1 billion worth of carbon pollution permits since 2009, reinvesting much of that money in clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives, resulting in estimated lifelong energy savings of about $2 billion — all the while cutting carbon pollution.

The ruling doesn’t automatically push New Jersey back into the RGGI, and it remains to be seen whether the state rejoins of the program. The court gave the administration 60 days to initiate a public process around any changes to the climate change pollution rules.

The year before, when the Christie Administration posted a notice on a website that power plants no longer had to comply with pollution limits, it effectively ended New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI), a nine-state program that has been reducing climate-changing pollution from East Coast power plants for the last five years.  The Christie Administration sidestepped the public process required by law.  Neither Governor Christie nor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection can simply repeal state laws by fiat.

RGGI took effect in 2009 and has:
  • Helped to reduce regional climate-change pollution by more than 30 percent, demonstrating that states can successfully clean up climate-altering pollution from power plants, just as they have successfully reduced emissions of arsenic, lead, soot and other types of power plant pollution;
  • Created more than 23,000 job-years (aka one year’s worth of work)—in the nine remaining RGGI states;
  • Implemented energy-efficiency measures that will save ratepayers of all kinds—residential, business and industrial—more than $1.8 billion on their energy bills; and
  • Added $2.4 billion in economic activity to the RGGI 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.   (Grist, 3/26/2014, NRDC)

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