With Federal Rules Coming, Governor Still Dodges Critical Global Warming Program
Trenton—The Christie Administration has announced its intention to once again try to stop New Jersey from participating in a regional program that limits dangerous climate-changing pollution from power plants, despite the New Jersey legislature twice voting to keep them in place, a recent court ruling finding its previous attempt was illegal, and overwhelming bipartisan support for pollution limits from New Jersey residents.
The administration announced it is launching a process to try 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. The announcement comes alongside a new report out today from Environment Northeast that finds the program has already helped cut regional climate pollution by about one-third, while bringing in billions of dollars in economic benefits, and creating tens of thousands of job-years.
“Governor Christie keeps trying to put the interests of big out-of-state polluters ahead of the health and well-being of the people of New Jersey—but the momentum is against him,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “RGGI is 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.
According to a letter from the New Jersey Acting Attorney General, the proposed action will be published in the New Jersey register on July 7, followed by a 60-day public comment period.
“This time, the people of New Jersey will get their say,” said O’Malley. “We want all of our leaders to protect us from the impacts of global warming, and we will make sure that Governor Christie hears us, loud and clear.”
RGGI can help New Jersey comply with forthcoming federal pollution standards
In response to the threat posed by global warming, next Monday the Environmental Protection Agency will announce 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 those standards by 2016. If they don’t, the EPA will develop a generic plan they can adopt.
“Governor Christie is headed down on a path that ends on the wrong side of history,” said Dale Bryk, Energy and Transportation Program Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our nation is moving full speed ahead to cut carbon pollution from dirty fossil fuel power plants—and New Jersey’s neighbors are already ahead of the pack thanks to RGGI. Continuing to deny the state a program that’s proven to create jobs, lower bills and boost local economies—especially with federal rules just around the corner—is not only nonsense, it’s a losing battle.”
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 report released today 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
• 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.
“Governor Christie’s fears can be put to rest,” said Travis Madsen, Senior Program Manager for Environment America. “The evidence is clear: RGGI works.”
“Admitting when you are wrong can be challenging—but there comes a point when you cannot keep ignoring the facts,” said Bryk. “There’s no question that RGGI is working exactly as planned—as an economic engine and pollution-cutting powerhouse. Christie can keep burying his head in the sand, but the people of New Jersey—and the nation—will not.”
Action on climate is urgent—and New Jersey residents support it
Earlier this month, 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.
And earlier this month, 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.