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<5>Assembly Utilities Chair Welcomes Opportunity for N.J. to Weigh-In on Historic Climate Policy
(TRENTON) Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula today announced plans to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan that the White House unveiled on Tuesday.

“We applaud President Obama for his courage and leadership in formulating a historic climate plan to address the escalating danger of global warming, soon after a report revealed that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has reached its highest levels ever in human history,” Chivukula said.

“We look forward to hearing testimony from stakeholders so that New Jersey can weigh in on our nation’s first-ever national climate policy,” he added.

Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, which scientists say, is the main factor in global warming pollution.

According to a report released last month by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), CO2 daily levels in the atmosphere have surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time they were so high was three to five millions years ago when humans didn’t exist.

Under the Climate Action Plan announced this week, Obama will issue a presidential order to direct the country’s chief environmental regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete performance standards for lowering carbon emissions from existing power plants.

The thousands of power plants in the nation, the bulk of which burn coal, account for roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA is expected to finalize rules for carbon limits for new power plants by September 20, 2013 and for existing power plants by June 2013. The federal agency will invite feedback to the rules from states, power companies and other stakeholders.

Enclosed are some key highlights of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Limit pollution from all U.S. power plants; Set energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings; Task the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) to approve enough permitting of renewable energy projects – like wind and solar, on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020; Require the DOI to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020.

The United States has set a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030, more than half the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector, via efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings.

On the international level, Obama’s Climate Action Plan calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired plants overseas, except for the poorest of countries or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies. It commits to expanding major new and existing international initiatives including bilateral agreements with China, India and other major emitting countries.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican leaning states have petitioned the Supreme Court to review rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“We look forward to New Jersey continuing its leadership in fighting climate change by working with the Obama administration on the Climate Action Plan. Our state has long been at the forefront of advancing a clean energy economy with groundbreaking measures like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that I was proud to sponsor. In its first three years, RGGI had generated more than $1.8 billion in economic activity, thousands of clean jobs and delivered significant energy efficiency,” Chivukula said.

“But unfortunately, Gov. Christie’s partisan decision to pull New Jersey out of RGGI combined with his unprecedented raids of more than $800 million in clean energy funds have dealt a severe setback to our state’s clean energy agenda,” he added.

RGGI is a cap and trade program that sets a regional cap on the emissions of carbon dioxide and allows entities to trade quotas under the cap at regional auctions. Proceeds from the auctions are used to fund clean energy including the use and development of solar and wind and energy efficiency programs.