(TRENTON) — Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committe Chairman John F. McKeon and Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula stood with leading advocates of the environment today to announce a multi-bill package to protect funding sources for clean energy and in support of New Jersey’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

McKeon and Chivukula unveiled the legislation today at a State House news conference in Trenton in response to Gov. Christie’s announcement last month that he would pull New Jersey out of RGGI.

Chivukula and McKeon are prime sponsors of the legislation that required New Jersey to become a part of the nation’s first market-based program to reduce global warming pollution from greenhouse gases by establishing a regional cap on emissions of carbon dioxide – the largest source of greenhouse gases that cause of global warming pollution.

Under RGGI, entities like power plants must purchase pollution allowances. Proceeds from the auction of allowances are intended to be invested in clean energy measures that further reduce energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. The measure is intended to provide for a 10 percent reduction of emissions in the region by 2018.

“Measures like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have catapulted New Jersey to national leadership in clean energy including renewable sources like wind and solar. It is incumbent upon us to work together in a bipartisan way to promote clean energy and make RGGI even more effective than it is today. Today, Chairman Chivukula and I unveiled a package of measures aimed at reasserting the Legislature’s intent to be part of RGGI and to protect funding for clean energy,” McKeon (D-Essex) said.

Since the measure (A-4559) was enacted into law in 2008, RGGI is credited with creating 18,000 jobs and generating $2.3 billion in economic activity in the region. The funds raised in auctions have helped deliver significant energy savings to small business, consumers and industry by funding energy conservation and energy efficiency programs.

“Staging a retreat from RGGI would be a tactical error for New Jersey. Chairman McKeon and I were glad to stand with leading environmental advocates for clean energy to announce a multi-bill package to keep New Jersey in RGGI. We look forward to working in a collaborative manner with our colleagues in the Legislature and Gov. Christie to make an already successful initiative even stronger and more effective,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset).

The RGGI bill package unveiled today includes the following measures:
A-4108 — McKeon\Chivukula\Stender — requires State participation in RGGI. The measure would require State participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which partially implements the purposes of the Global Warming Respone Act (GWRA) by creating an emissions auction and trading mechanism to reduce the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, namely carbon dioxide (CO2);

ACR-195 — McKeon\Chivukula\Stender — declares withdrawal of N.J. from RGGI inconsistent with GRWA & RGGI. The measure declares the Governor’s withdrawal of New Jersey from RGGI to be inconsistent with legislative intent and affirm the General Assembly’s support for New Jersey remaining part of the initiative. This resolution embodies the finding and determination of this House that the announcement by Gov. Christie to withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is inconsistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the legislative findings and declarations of the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI);

ACR-80 — Chivukula\McKeon – urges the passage of a constitutional amendment for the dedication of clean energy funds. The measure urges the passage of an amendment to the State Constitution that would require funds placed into the Clean Energy Fund to be used solely for clean energy purposes.

It declares that that EDECA — the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act of 1999 authorizes the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to impose a societal benefits charge (SBC) on all electric and gas public utility customers and sets forth permissible uses for funds collected through the imposition of the SBC, which include energy efficiency, energy conservation, renewable energy programs and the Universal Service Fund. The annual appropriations act has repeatedly authorized distributions from the Clean Energy Fund for purposes that are not provided for in EDECA and are unrelated to clean energy.

The diversion of Clean Energy Funds for purposes not contemplated within EDECA and entirely unrelated to energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy constitutes a hidden general tax on the people of New Jersey. The measure calls for an amendment to the State constitution is necessary to prevent future diversions from the Clean Energy Fund.

Last year, Gov. Christie zeroed out $65 million in RGGI funds when he raided an estimated $408 million in clean energy funds.