NJ governor reverses Christie’s climate policies
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February 05, 2018
NJ governor reverses Christie’s climate policies

Under its new governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, New Jersey is moving rapidly to reverse several environmental policies of former Republican Governor Chris Christie. In the space of 2 days, Murphy began the process of New Jersey’s reentry into the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and also announced that the state would withdraw from a legal effort by multiple states to eliminate the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Both the RGGI and the CPP were developed to reduce power plant emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change.

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“Five years ago, New Jersey faced Superstorm Sandy,” Murphy said in statement. “That storm and the devastation it brought to our state was an all-too-real look at our new normal if we do not take climate change seriously. As the densest state in the nation, we cannot afford to keep our heads in the sand any longer. Climate change is real, and a real threat to our state. Doing nothing is not an option.”

RGGI

New Jersey was an original member of the RGGI before Christie’s withdrawal in 2011. The program, the first of its type in the nation, sets a cap on carbon pollution from power plants in the 9 RGGI states—10 once New Jersey’s reentry is complete. The cap declines annually and is implemented through a system of permits or allowances that regulated facilities buy and sell in quarterly auctions. Each allowance gives the regulated facility permission to emit 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). At the end of each 3-year compliance period, each facility must have allowances that are at least equal to its carbon emissions during that period. States use proceeds from the auctions to fund various initiatives, including energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, GHG abatement, and direct bill assistance.

In pulling out of the RGGI, Christie said the program was a failure because allowances were never expensive enough to change behavior.

But Murphy says withdrawal from the RGGI has slowed progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jersey $279 million in revenue that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve community air quality. In an Executive Order (EO), Murphy has directed the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection to begin discussions with the RGGI states to arrange New Jersey’s reentry into the RGGI and its CO2 trading program.

Murphy’s EO is here.

CPP

New Jersey was one of 27 states that were joined by many industry organizations in filing suit in 2015 against the EPA and its CPP. The CPP requires that each state achieve state-specific carbon goals that reflect current emissions rates at existing fossil fuel power plants. By 2030, facilities are to have met their final reduced carbon goals. Eighteen other states stood with the Agency in defending the CPP, which is now stalled by order of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule is a comprehensive effort to slow down global warming and protect human health,” said New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who joined Murphy in announcing the state’s withdrawal from the suit. “We believe that New Jersey should and can comply with the proposed requirement to submit a plan to reduce its production of carbon dioxide. By withdrawing from the current lawsuit that aims to prevent the Clean Power Plan rule from going into effect, New Jersey steps out of the role of obstructionist and begins the legal process of fighting for our future.”

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