Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Environment and Energy Committee Chairman Bob Smith, and Senator Peter J. Barnes III that would reaffirm New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was approved today by the Senate Environment panel.
“Participating in RGGI is simply common sense. It not only reduces the amount of toxins we release into the air, but provides a good funding source for renewable energy programs such as solar and wind,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “By pulling out of this coalition, the administration has put essential alternative energy projects, and the jobs that they would create in New Jersey, at risk.”
The bill, S-151, would clarify the intent of RGGI legislation enacted in 2007. That law helped create an emissions auction and trading mechanism to help reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.
“RGGI provides the state with an opportunity to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by ensuring that power producers have to pay for their impact on the environment, while still allowing them to operate in our free market,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset. “By pulling out of the regional coalition, the governor has put his political motives above the state’s efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions and to leave a healthier and cleaner New Jersey for future generations.”
In May 2011, Governor Christie announced that he was withdrawing New Jersey from RGGI without seeking legislative approval. On Tuesday of this week, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that the Christie Administration had acted improperly by pulling out of the program. They are requiring the Administration within 60 days to initiate an official rule making process – which would allow for both public and Legislative input.
“The Legislature made its intentions clear that New Jersey needs to take action against the release of harmful toxins into our air by becoming a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” said Senator Barnes, D-Middlesex. “The Christie Administration has arbitrarily taken us out of the program, an action the courts are now saying is illegal. This legislation will reaffirm our commitment to cleaner, healthier air for New Jersey and the entire region.”
The bill would clarify the original 2007 legislation by ensuring that New Jersey’s participation in RGGI was not suggested, but mandated by the law. Passage of the bill would require Governor Christie to reenter New Jersey into RGGI.
The bill was approved with a vote of 3-1. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.