McKeon, Gusciora & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Allow NJ to Rejoin the RGGI Program Approved by the Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would require the state to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to curb greenhouse-gas emissions was approved by the full Assembly, 48-24.

Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order on January 29 directing the DEP Commissioner to immediately begin any necessary discussion and negotiations with RGGI’s member states for the purpose of arranging New Jersey’s re-entry into RGGI and its carbon dioxide budget trading program, and to begin the administrative rulemaking process for the purpose of rejoining within 30 days.

“Our exclusion as a state from the RGGI program has cost us millions of dollars allocated for clean energy projects and will continue to do so until we go back,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “We proposed the legislation allowing the state to partake in the RGGI, and we want New Jersey rejoin the program. The difference is that this time we have a Governor who understands the importance of our participation in the program.”

The bill (A-1212) would clarify the intent of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) implementing law, which allowed the state to participate in the program, and specifically requires the state’s participation in the program. The Christie administration removed the state from the RGGI program in 2011. The goal of the RGGI is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across several Northeast and mid-Atlantic states from Maine to Maryland by 10 percent by 2020.

“The intent of the Legislature is the same today as it was in 2007, when it proposed the bill that enabled the state to participate in the program,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Our inclusion in the program means less pollution and reduced energy costs. It is essential that we go back.”

“The state’s participation in the regional initiative can help lower energy bills for taxpayers, lower pollution levels and allow for greater investment in green projects,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It is imperative for this and future generations that we rejoin the other states in the RGGI.”

The law, commonly referred to as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or the RGGI implementing law, was enacted to further the purposes of the “Global Warming Response Act”.

The law partially implements the policies of the GWRA by creating an emissions auction and trading mechanism to reduce the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, namely carbon dioxide (CO2). At the time the GWRA and the RGGI implementing law were going through the legislative process, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) were already actively engaged in RGGI, as New Jersey was a signatory state on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2005 by Governor Codey, and as subsequently amended and signed by Governor Corzine in 2006 and again in 2007.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on February 1. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.