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Assembly Approves McKeon, Chivukula, Stender, Barnes, Gusciora & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Require New Jersey to Rejoin Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Efforts

(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly members John F. McKeon, Upendra J. Chivukula, Linda Stender, Peter J. Barnes III, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would require New Jersey to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), was approved tonight by the full Assembly.
The measure (A-1998) would require State participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which establishes a regional cap on emisions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming pollution.
Under this cap-and-trade pact enacted in 2008, entities like power companies are required to purchase pollution allowances in regional auctions if they need to exceed their cap, while others can trade their unused quotas. Funds raised in RGGI auctions are invested in renewable energy, clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.
“In the first three years since its enactment, RGGI has fast-tracked a clean energy economy in New Jersey, delivering significant economic and environmental benfits and substantial energy savings. Pulling out of RGGI was a shortsighted and regressive misstep, driven by party politics,” McKeon (D-Essex\Morris) said.
“The measure we have sponsored would require the State to continue its participation in the Regional Greenouse Gas Initiative. I urge the Governor to support this measure when it reaches his desk so that we may continue our march towards a clean energy future,” he added.
Since its enactment in 2008, RGGI is credited with supporting nearly 1,800 jobs in New Jersey and added $151 million in economic value to the state. Region-wide, the program has supported more than 16,135 jobs and added more than $1.6 billion in economic value.
Out of the estimated $886 million raised in regional auctions by the end of 2011, about 63 percent has been invested in renewable energy, clean energy technologies and energy efficiency. New Jersey’s share of about $181 million has funded 9 major solar and combined heat and power projects.
The RGGI-funded projects produce enough clean energy to offset the energy demand of 20,000 New Jersey homes each year. By leaving RGGI, the State stands to lose upto $680 million from subsequent auctions through 2020.
“Why are we backtracking from progress? Why are we turning away from success?,” asked Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex).
“Staging a retreat from RGGI was a tactical blunder. The funds raised in RGGI auctions have helped finance New Jersey’s clean energy program, which incentivizes the industrial and residential use and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, which further reduces demand. The development of renewable Dests and clean energy technologies has also helped reduce our billion-dollar-a-day dependence on foreign oil. Rejoining RGGI is crucial to our energy independence and to national security,” he added.
Chivukula is the lead Assembly sponsor of the original RGGI measure (A-4559) which is also sponsored by McKeon, Stender and Vainieri Huttle.
“Through well coordinated and progressive policies like the groundbreaking Global Warming Response Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Legislature successfully constructed a clean energy infrastructure in New Jersey that is supported by financial programs like weatherization through the Department of Community Affairs and an aggressive clean energy program through the Board of Public Utilities,” Stender (D-Union) said.
“Pulling out of RGGI could lead to the dismantling of a series of initiatives that have reduced our state’s carbon footprint and accelerated a clean energy economy. The measure we have sponsored would help us continue on the path of progress,” she added.
Stender sponsored the Global Warming Response Act in 2007, a landmark initiative which requires the reduction of CO2 emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2008 levels by 2050. The measure (A-3301) is also sponsored by Assembly members Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora and McKeon. RGGI implements the Act by establishing a regional cap to reduce greenhouse emissions under which entities are allowed to trade pollution quotas.
The energy investments through RGGI have already enabled New Jersey to cut its global warming emissions by 13,100 metric tons per year, which is equivalent to taking 2,500 passenger vehicles off the road.
“By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of renewable energy Dests and clean energy technologies, RGGI has powered a green economy and generated thousands of green jobs,” Barnes (D-Edison) said. “It has also helped deliver energy savings to small business and consumers by funding efficiency and conservation programs. Pulling out of RGGI would be counterproductive and could stunt the growth of our state’s green economy.”
The cap-and-trade program is projected to generate $25 in energy savings for the average residential ratepayer and $181 for the average business ratepayer between 2009 and 2021. Industrial customers have realized $2,493 in savings. In New Jersey, the total energy bill savings from RGGI would amount to an estimated $150 million by 2021.
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a monumental endeavor resulting from years of collaborative effort between stakeholders and advocates in ten states. By establishing a regional cap on emissions, RGGI incentivizes industry to be environmentally responsible while providing the flexibility of being responsive to market forces. This is accomplished by allowing entities to trade pollution allowances within the cap,” Gusciora (D-Princeton) said. “To pull out of RGGI was irresponsible public policy and the measure we sponsored will put us back on track.”
“Opting out of RGGI has jeopardized our state’s clean energy future and put at risk thousands of clean jobs and our state’s clean energy infrastructure which took decades to construct. It has also reversed the progress we have made in protecting and preserving the environment,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It is crucial that we continue our membership in RGGI.”
The original Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
“More than 50,000 New Jersey residents have written, called or emailed the Governor in support of New Jersey rejoining RGGI, following his decision to pull us out of the multi-state greenhouse compact. We urge the Governor to heed the will of the people who elected him to act in their best interest by signing the measure. New Jersey’s participation in RGGI is crucial for the environment, for our economic vitaltity and our quality of life,” McKeon said.
The petition to campaign the Governor was stewarded by Environment New Jersey.