New Jersey’s action reverses Christie decision, contrasts with Trump climate rollbacks
Five years after Super Storm Sandy destroyed a Jersey Shore boardwalk, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state is rejoining a multi-state, bipartisan effort to reduce carbon pollution.
Gov. Phil Murphy officially announced that New Jersey is rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program — the landmark, bipartisan effort to reduce carbon pollution from electric power plants in the Northeast region. The governor, First Lady Tammy Murphy, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, a crowd of state environmental leaders and activists, and members of the Murphy administration joined together in Atlantic Highlands, which had been destroyed during Super Storm Sandy five years ago, to celebrate this significant action on climate.
RGGI launched in 2007 as a partnership of ten states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Gov. Christie pulled New Jersey out of the multi-state partnership nearly seven years ago.
Environment America’s Director for Global Warming Solutions, Andrea McGimsey stated:
“We applaud the new governor of New Jersey for immediately joining this successful, bipartisan partnership of nine states, now ten again, which has delivered real progress in the fight against global warming. This effort is a tremendous example of state action in the face of climate denial and rollbacks of critical climate programs at the federal level. The nation’s best regional climate program just got better, thanks to Gov. Murphy.
“In the years since New Jersey left the program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has delivered significant benefits to the citizens and business of the nine states who remained in the partnership: it has cut global warming pollution in half from 2005 levels; raised more than $2.78 billion dollars, including more than $1 billion in investments in energy efficiency and $270 million for clean and renewable energy investments; provided more than $5.7 billion in health benefits to the region, averting hundreds of premature deaths; and saved consumers more than $773 million on their energy bills.
“While Republicans and Democrats in Washington engage in name-calling, the governors in RGGI states are showing how bipartisanship works: five are Republicans, five are Democrats, and all of them agree we need to reduce carbon pollution. They have shown that leaders of both parties can work together to deliver significant benefits for their constituents. The air is cleaner, our communities are more secure, and lives continue to be saved, thanks to the courageous and visionary leaders of these ten states.”
Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley, who served on the transition team for the new governor and attended the event, released the following statement in reaction to the news:
“Nearly seven years after Gov. Christie pulled us out of this agreement, and after three attempts by the Legislature to rejoin it, today’s action has been a long time coming.
“RGGI is a shining light in the darkness of climate rollbacks of the Trump era. While RGGI is not a silver bullet to reduce all our carbon emissions, it’s an incredible first step to reduce pollution from our fossil fuel plants and move us to a clean, renewable energy economy.
“Climate change is not an esoteric issue for the Jersey Shore. New Jersey residents and businesses have directly experienced devastating storms made worse by global warming. Five years after Super Storm Sandy, this move is long overdue to tackle the climate crisis. It is a slam dunk on climate action.
“Governor Murphy campaigned vigorously on climate action and repeatedly asserted on the campaign trail that one of his first environmental actions in office would be for New Jersey to rejoin the program. He repeatedly talked about the critical nature of not only accepting climate science, but taking real steps to tackle global warming.
“We have benefited from cleaner air, thanks to the efforts of our neighboring states, and now it will be even cleaner. If New Jersey didn’t rejoin the program, we would lose out on more than $500 million in clean energy investments. RGGI is the program that shows we can expand our clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution.
“As the New Jersey Legislature moves forward with the implementation language for RGGI, it will be critical to ensure that funds focus on the programs with the best track record for carbon reductions and to focus specifically on the state’s cities and urban neighborhoods that pay the most into the program and are already impacted by the threats of air pollution. We need to ensure that RGGI is implemented in a fair and equitable manner, which is referenced in Gov. Murphy’s just released environmental transition report.
“RGGI’s origination exemplified bipartisan cooperation in the depths of the Bush Administration’s inaction on climate during the 2000s. Gov. George Pataki (D – NY) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R – MA) helped to build support for the program, and New Jersey officially joined the program under Gov. Jon Corzine in 2008. During the program’s existence, New Jersey has been the only state to pull out, and there was bipartisan agreement from states last year to strengthen the program. Currently, Virginia is poised to join the agreement, which will strengthen the program.
“Five years after the destruction of Super Storm Sandy in New Jersey and New York, the need for climate action couldn’t be more clear. According to a Union of Concerned Sciences study from 2017, more than 20 New Jersey towns, primarily along the Shore, will face coastal flooding severe enough in 17 years (2035) to cover 10% of their town’s land mass once every two weeks. The climate crisis for our coastal communities is not going to wait.
“RGGI will make investments in our clean energy economy. Even when New Jersey was in the program, Gov. Christie’s administration raided funds that should have been allocated for clean energy programs like energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy like solar and wind power. RGGI is a program that works to not only cap carbon pollution from our power plants, but also to invest in clean energy.
“Today’s announcement by Gov. Murphy starts the official process for New Jersey to become a full-throated partner in the regional agreement. Gov. Murphy’s NJ Department of Environmental Protection and Acting NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe will be tasked with proposing the regulations for New Jersey to administer the RGGI program, and participate in the regional RGGI auctions for carbon pollution credits, and establish a new New Jersey RGGI program in consultation with RGGI Inc. and the other participating Northeast states.
“Environment New Jersey, in the immediate aftermath of Gov. Christie’s decision to unilaterally pull us out of the program, filed litigation with the New Jersey Superior Court, arguing that the Governor had illegally pulled us out of the program. In March 2014, the court agreed with our lawsuit and required Gov. Christie’s administration to follow a regulatory process. In the resulting public hearing at NJDEP, there was overwhelming public support to stay in the program, which was ultimately ignored by the Christie Administration.”