(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Environment Chairman John F. McKeon, Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula and Assembly members Linda Stender, Peter J. Barnes III and Reed Gusciora to prevent New Jersey from pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was approved today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
The measures, that were also recently cleared by the Assembly Environment Panel were introduced in response to Gov. Christie’s announcement last month that he would pull New Jersey out of the ten-state compact by the end of the year.
Sponsored by Chivukula and McKeon, RGGI establishes a regional cap on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming pollution. Under this cap-and-trade pact, 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 the auctions are invested in renewable energy, clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.
One of the measures (S2946\ A-4108) approved by today’s Senate panel would require State participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which partially implements the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) by reducing levels of greenhouse emissions.
The second measure (SCR164\ACR-195) would declare the state’s withdrawal from RGGI to be inconsistent with the legislative intent of the GWRA. It would also affirm the General Assembly’s support for continued membership in the multi-state pact.
“We are a country of laws. By disregarding the intent of the Legislature which required New Jersey to be a member of RGGI, Gov. Christie is ignoring the will of the people,” McKeon (D-Essex) said.
“We recently received testimony in the Assembly Environment panel that more than 10,000 New Jersey residents signed petitions or sent emails calling on the Governor not to pull out of RGGI in the past two weeks. The measures that were advanced by the Assembly and Senate Environment panels confirm that Gov. Christie’s decision to pull out of the multi-state compact would be inconsistent with legislative intent and reaffirm the General Assembly’s support for New Jersey to remain part of the initiative,” he added.
Since the law was enacted in 2008, RGGI is credited with creating 18,000 jobs and generating $2.3 billion in economic activity in the region. Out of $861 million raised in regional auctions, 63 percent has been invested in renewable energy, clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.
“Staging a retreat from RGGI would be a tactical error. The first-of-its-kind Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has significantly reduced our state’s energy dependence by fast tracking the development of a renewable economy. The funds raised in RGGI auctions have helped fund New Jersey’s clean energy program that incentivizes the industrial and residential use and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, which further reduces demand,” Chivukula (D-Somerset) said.
“Pulling out of RGGI would lead to the dismantling of a series of well coordinated initiatives like the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) that have helped our state reduce global warming pollution and advance towards a clean energy future. We are determined not to let that happen through the measures we have sponsored,” said Stender (D-Union).
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 Environment Vice Chairman Reed Gusciora and Chairman McKeon. RGGI implements the Act by establishing a cap to reduce greenhouse emissions.
“By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of renewable energy sources 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 regressive and could stunt the growth of our state’s green economy.”
“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 responding to market forces by allowing entities to trade pollution allowances within the cap,” Assembly Environment Vice Chairman Gusciora (D-Princeton) said. “To pull out of RGGI would be irresponsible public policy.”
A third measure (AJR80) sponsored by Chivukula and McKeon that did not come up before today’s Senate panel but cleared the Assembly Environment panel calls for a constitutional amendment which would dedicate funding for clean energy.
“New Jersey’s clean energy program which incentivizes the industrial and residential use and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency is funded through a societal benefits charge on monthly utility bills of ratepayers. By raiding these funds to balance the budget and diverting them from programs that deliver energy savings and the development of clean energy, we are shortchanging ratepayers and imposing a hidden tax,” Chivukula (D-Somerset) said.
Last year, Gov. Christie zeroed out $65 million in RGGI funds when he raided an estimated $408 million in clean energy funds to balance the state budget for the fiscal year 2010 to 2011, a move that was criticized by Chivukula and McKeon and other clean energy advocates.
“By calling for a constitutional amendment to ensure clean energy funds are not raided or diverted, this measure would prevent that from happening,” Chivukula added.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
“In the past six years, we have cleared the path for a clean energy infrastructure with the passage of groundbreaking measures like the Global Warming Response Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. We also provided a financial infrastructure by funding programs like weatherization through the Department of Community Affairs and clean energy technologies through the Board of Public Utilities. Gov Christie should build on these initiatives rather than backtracking on the progress that has already been made by pulling out of RGGI,” Stender said.
“Measures like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have catapulted New Jersey to national leadership in clean energy including in renewable sources like wind and solar. The development of renewable sources and clean energy technologies also help free us from our billion-dollar-a-day dependence on foreign oil,” McKeon said.
“By pulling out of RGGI, New Jersey would be taking a giant step backwards in our march towards a clean energy economy and energy independence. It is incumbent upon us to work together in a bipartisan manner to make RGGI even more effective than it already is,” he added.
The measures cleared today by the Senate panel are headed for a vote in the full Senate and Assembly.
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