McKeon, Lagana, Gusciora, Pinkin & Jasey Bill to Declare Invalid DEP’s Repeal of RGGI Rules Gets Final Legislative Approval

(TRENTON) – A measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Joseph Lagana, Reed Gusciora, Nancy Pinkin and Mila Jasey to declare invalid the Christie administration’s repeal of regulations mandated by the Legislature to guide the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was approved Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

“Gov. Christie can try every which way he can to pry New Jersey from participating in this effort to keep our air and water clean and promote renewable energy, and while he has some authority to act on his own, he cannot ignore state regulations and just change them to suit his anti-environmental agenda,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), who sponsored the legislation requiring New Jersey participate in the greenhouse gas reduction program. “The rule of the law matters, as does the environmental future of New Jersey and the will of the people of New Jersey. We aren’t going to stand by and let Gov. Christie run roughshod over our pro-environment legacy.”

“Rules matter,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The people of New Jersey want a clean environment and renewable energy. They know it’s good for the economy and good for job creation. The governor has gone about this the wrong way and the voices of the people will be heard.”

The concurrent resolution (ACR-189) maintains that repealing the regulatory scheme created to govern the state’s participation in the RGGI program is not consistent with the intent of the Legislature, as expressed in the 2007 law that created these regulations. The resolution contends that repealing these regulations contradicts the legislative intent of a provision that affirmatively mandated the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to promulgate rules and regulations to govern the state’s participation in a greenhouse gas cap and trade program.

The provision authorized, but did not require, the DEP to exercise this authority in cooperation and coordination with other states or countries that are participating in regional, national, or international carbon dioxide emissions trading programs. This affirmative statutory duty to promulgate such rules and regulations was not contingent upon the state’s participation in a regional, national, or international program such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The resolution maintains that since the provision did not explicitly or implicitly authorize the DEP to repeal these rules and regulations upon the state’s withdrawal from RGGI, the DEP remains obligated to establish rules and regulations for state participation in greenhouse cap and trade programs.

“Having these regulations in place allowed the state to take advantage of opportunities that were beneficial to our environment, as well as our economy. By pulling the state out of RGGI and repealing the regulations, the administration has hurt both,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Withdrawing from RGGI was a costly mistake, but it did not make these rules obsolete and did not absolve the administration from its responsibility to maintain these rules for future use.”

“It is difficult to understand the governor’s dogged resistance to initiatives meant to reduce damage to our environment,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “New Jerseyans have made it abundantly clear time and time again that they want a cleaner, healthier environment for their children. Exposure to greenhouse gases threatens the public health. The regulations authorized by the Legislature adhere to the wishes of our citizens and are paramount. The financial cost and impact on the quality of life of our residents is at stake here. “

“It is unfortunate that the administration did not see the benefits of participating in the RGGI program, but these rules and regulations were not exclusively tied to RGGI,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “These rules and regulations provide a blueprint for the state to follow if it chooses to participate in another greenhouse cap and trade program. Given what we know about climate change, we should be amplifying our environmental protection efforts, not weakening them.”

The Commissioner of Environmental Protection will have 30 days following transmittal of this concurrent resolution to amend or withdraw the changes made by the department or the Legislature may, by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the Constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part, or prohibit the changes made to the rules and regulations by the department, in whole or in part, from taking effect.

The bill was approved 46-32 by the Assembly, and 23-14 by the Senate in October.