Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gov: NJ's pulling out of climate-change compact, RGGI

[Updated at 2:37 p.m. on Friday, May 27, 2011 to include related news stories]

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pleased business groups but outraged the state's environmental community today by announcing that he's pulling the state out of RGGI,
the 10-state regional cap-and-trade system that charges industries for CO2 emissions
and funnels the money into renewable energy and energy-conservation programs. 

At a news conference, Christie acknowledged the validity of climate change science but labeled the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a 'gimmicky program" that had failed to combat the problem of global warming and was only driving up the cost of electric energy in the state. News conference video.

NJ Business and Industry Association President Philip Kirschner hailed the decision.

“RGGI’s cap-and-trade provisions increase costs to New Jersey businesses and consumers who are already paying some of the highest electricity rates in the nation,” he said.  “New Jersey’s participation in RGGI, however, has virtually no positive impact on the environment.  Even if the state meets its greenhouse-gas reduction goals, it would have an infinitesimal effect on the overall generation of greenhouse gases.”

Environmental and smart-growth organizations denounced the governor's decision.

Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future, said:

“Contrary to the governor’s assertion, there is no evidence that businesses have been negatively affected by New Jersey’s participation in RGGI.  In fact, over the long run, RGGI
is expected to make our companies more competitive, by increasing the supply of electricity from alternative sources, reducing demand through energy efficiency measures and bringing down the price of electricity for all users. The proceeds from RGGI would also provide financially strapped municipalities with resources to plan for sustainable land-use and transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions and energy use."

"I’m glad the governor went to global warming school but he didn’t learn his lesson," said David Pringle, political director of New Jersey Environmental Federation, which backed Christie for the top office.

Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey said the announcement "marks a grim day for New Jersey’s historic leadership on clean energy and global warming solutions." 

"For over a decade, New Jersey has lead the nation in the effort to fight global warming and promote clean energy.  Governor Christie’s announcement today undermines a decade’s worth of progress and leadership in New Jersey, and, if he is successful, could set us behind our neighboring states working to end the dirty and destructive addiction to fossil fuels," Elliott said.

The harshest remarks came from the Sierra Club's Jeff Tittle, a constant critic of the Christie Administration. 

“Christie is taking the side of corporate polluters and the coal industry over the environment and health of the people of New Jersey,” said Tittel. “As part of his attempt to become a national politician he would rather pander to the National Republican Party then do what is right for the people of New Jersey."

Tittel called the decision "a tax cut for corporate polluters" that was "pushed by the Tea Party backed Americans for Prosperity, a front group for oil and coal interests."
There will be more reaction in the days ahead and it will be interesting to see how members of the state legislature react to the governor's decision. 

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