Post-Christie N.J. wants back into RGGI

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Newly elected New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is re-entering his state into a regional cap-and-trade program.

Former Gov. Chris Christie (R) decided in 2011 to withdraw the Garden State from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI); the withdrawal took effect in 2012 (Climatewire, May 27, 2011). Environmental groups criticized the move as hampering the critical goal of reducing emissions linked to global warming.

Murphy  signed an executive order requiring the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Board of Public Utilities to initiate re-entry.

“New Jersey has not been a partner to our neighbor states in advancing the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions since pulling out of RGGI,” Murphy said in a statement. “[It] slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities.”

RGGI is the United States’ first market-based regulatory program to reduce heat-trapping emissions. It established a cap on the issuing and auctioning of tradable allowances for carbon dioxide. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont participate in the program.

The governor’s office estimated that withdrawal from the regional program cost New Jersey about $279 million in revenue.

Murphy’s executive order appoints DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and utilities board President Joseph Fiordaliso to the RGGI board of directors once the state rejoins.

“Five years ago, New Jersey faced Superstorm Sandy,” Murphy said. “That storm and the devastation it brought to our state was an all-too-real look at our new normal if we do not take climate change seriously. As the densest state in the nation, we cannot afford to keep our heads in the sand any longer. Climate change is real, and a real threat to our state. Doing nothing is not an option.”

Last year, RGGI increased its commitment to cut carbon emissions from power plants by an additional 30 percent. The plan adds downward cap adjustments to account for extra emissions allowances and creates new tools to soak up extra allowances that aren’t sold. An estimated 132 million tons by 2030 could be reduced.