New Jersey to rejoin climate program in 2020

Source: Ines Kagubare, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Jersey officials proposed two rules yesterday that would re-enter the state in a multistate cap-and-trade program that former Republican Gov. Chris Christie called “gimmicky” in 2011.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has promised since taking office in January to reverse Christie’s move to withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the United States’ first regional carbon market to address climate change.

He announced yesterday that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities are developing regulations to re-enter the program. Murphy called Christie’s decision to withdraw in 2012 an “abdication of leadership.”

“Climate change and sea-level rise affect every one of us,” Murphy said in a statement. “From Superstorm Sandy to the powerful nor’easters and devastating flooding this year, it is imperative that New Jersey reclaim its leadership role in fighting back.”

The state lost an estimated $279 million in revenue from withdrawing from the program, according to the governor’s office.

Christie quit the program because he said it raised energy prices and failed to reduce emissions.

“The whole system is not working as it was intended to work,” he said in 2011. “It’s a failure.”

The first rule proposed yesterday establishes the mechanisms for rejoining RGGI and sets the initial carbon dioxide cap for the state’s electricity sector at 18 million metric tons in 2020.

That cap would last one year. The number of allowances sold would then gradually decrease to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the first year, a residential ratepayer would pay about $1 a month in added energy costs, according to Murphy’s office.

The state DEP projects that overall emissions would fall to 11.5 million tons by 2030.

The second proposed rule would establish how the carbon revenue would be spent. Some funds could go to communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change. About 60 percent of the revenue would go to the Economic Development Authority, while the Board of Public Utilities and the DEP are each expected to get 20 percent.

The DEP filed the proposed rules yesterday in the New Jersey Register. Two public hearings are scheduled for Jan. 25 before they undergo final review.

The state could begin participating in the program in March 2020.

“Today’s action is an important first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy and keeping us on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 for the benefit of all New Jerseyans,” Murphy said.