Trenton— Concerned citizens, parents, scientists, elected officials, health professionals, clean energy business owners and environmental advocates gathered at a public hearing today to speak out against a Christie Administration proposal to repeal rules implementing a program to clean up global warming pollution from power plants – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
“This is about our children’s future,” said Trisha Sheehan, New Jersey Field Organizer with Moms Clean Air Force. “We need Gov. Christie to step up and lead on climate, not step back.”
Governor Christie’s administration is moving to repeal RGGI regulations despite overwhelming bipartisan public support for pollution limits and clean energy innovation, and the New Jersey legislature twice voting to keep the state in the program.
Governor Christie unilaterally ended New Jersey’s participation in RGGI 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 Christie administration had acted illegally in making such a major change in policy without providing an opportunity for public participation. Today’s hearing, held at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Trenton, provided an opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard.
Mom’s Clean Air Force organized a “play-in” at a nearby park, where children made signs, played with a parachute and inflatable earth-shaped beach balls, and then marched over to the hearing. The event symbolized what is at stake – the well-being of future generations.
RGGI Could Help New Jersey Comply with the Clean Power Plan
In response to the threat posed by global warming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently 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.”
Governor Christie and his administration have stated – incorrectly – that New Jersey will not have to do anything additional to comply with the policy. In emails responding to concerned citizens, Governor Christie has written that, "New Jersey is ahead of the proposed standards.” And Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, echoed this opinion in remarks to a local newspaper, the Asbury Park Press.
However, EPA modeling suggests that New Jersey would actually have to cut its power plant emissions by almost 60 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030 in order to successfully achieve its targets under the Clean Power Plan. (See Attached Figure.)
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey.
“Gov. Christie can keep burying his head in the sand, but the people of New Jersey—and the nation—will not,” said Jackson Morris, eastern energy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Christie administration will have to develop a real strategy to meet the requirements of the policy – and RGGI is an obvious option. The infrastructure of the program is already developed, New Jersey has a history of participation, and it generates revenue that the state can use to accelerate its transition to clean energy and make the goals of the Clean Power Plan easier to achieve.
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 recent report by Environment Northeast (ENE), RGGI has already helped:
- Reduce carbon pollution by almost 30 percent since 2009;
- 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; and
- Add more than $2.4 billion in economic activity to the region.
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 20 percent. By sitting on the sidelines, New Jersey is missing out on these benefits.
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. The program works.
Cleaning up power plants can help prevent the worst impacts of global warming
Scientists agree that global warming is happening now, and it is already having impacts across the country. 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.
“Instead of repealing these rules,” said Travis Madsen, Senior Program Manager at Environment America, “Governor Christie should be helping to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of global warming.”
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.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Figure: Trends in Power Plant Emissions in New Jersey since 1980, Plus EPA Modeling of the Impact of the Clean Power Plan