Gov. Christie Attempts To Duck EPA Clean Power Plan, but Can’t Ignore Climate Change

Media Contacts

Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center

Trenton – Late this afternoon, the Christie Administration requested an stay from the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, arguing that the Christie Administration’s supposedly exemplary record on tackling climate change means it’s being unfairly punished and that EPA’s action was essentially illegal.

Environment New Jersey’s Director Doug O’Malley issued the following statement in response:

“It’s time for Gov. Christie to go back to school and learn about climate change. It’s not enough for Gov. Christie to acknowledge climate change is real, he needs to take action to reduce carbon pollution.

Gov. Christie’s administration can ask for a get-out-jail-free card from EPA on climate rules, but you can’t get an exemption from the impact of climate change. New Jersey is on the front lines of climate change and needs to be a leader, not a laggard. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a sensible step to rein in carbon pollution from our power plants. New Jersey should be already crafting its compliance plan, not asking to be excused from the assignment. EPA should toss this letter in the recycling bin and ensure that New Jersey complies with the Clean Power Plan.

The Governor’s plan can’t rely on continuing to build natural gas plants, as he recently stated at a town hall in New Hampshire. As we approach the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, it is a fair question whether the Governor continues to view global warming as an esoteric issue. The NJDEP statement announcing the stay makes no reference to the potential dangers climate change poses to the state, either from sea level rise, rising temperatures or increased extreme weather events. The statement doesn’t reference the legislative mandates of the Global Warming Response Act to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, an aggressive but necessary mandate.

The final EPA Clean Power Plan issued in early August was stronger than the draft version proposed last year. Nationally, power plants will need to reduce their carbon emission by 32% over the next 15 years. However, New Jersey’s carbon pollution reductions from power plants over the next 15 years were reduced from 43% to 23%. We can only wonder what the Christie Administration’s reaction would have been if the draft plan hadn’t been altered.

The EPA Clean Power Plan is the first time there has ever been any federal limit put on the unchecked carbon pollution being emitted from power plants across the country.  New Jersey can’t continue to skate by on the clean energy achievements of past administrations.

Today’s announcement by the Christie Administration that it is requesting a stay of the requirements of the EPA Clean Power Plan uses a thin argument that the EPA is overstepping its legal authority. The 2007 Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts vs. EPA, clearly states that EPA has the authority to regulate carbon pollution under the power of the Clean Air Act.

This letter should have been cced to Iowa Republican primary voters, because it’s clear that the Christie Administration is tailoring its message on climate change to appeal to the conservative base. The Governor is doing a disservice to the constituents who elected him to his office, and who overwhelming support limits on carbon pollution.

The logical conclusion of the Christie Administration’s continued failure to act would be the institution of the federal implementation plan on New Jersey. New Jersey should not be a laggard state on acting on climate.

The Christie Administration’s own 2011 Energy Master Plan shows the investments the administration has made in fossil fuels, especially in gas plants and pipelines, and the failure of the Administration to implement its own off-shore wind legislation or to meet its goals on energy efficiency. Last month’s three hearings, held in the dead of August and around New Jersey, showed the overwhelming public opposition to the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure around New Jersey and the need for the state to make clean energy investments. Now is not the time to put our head in the sand and hope that climate change affects some other state; the only way to combat climate change is to reduce our carbon pollution and the EPA Clean Power Plan is strong step in the right direction.