The Chris Christie administration broke ranks with prominent Republicans and moderate Democrats by endorsing the Obama administration’s attack on affordable energy, with a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman saying the Department and the Christie administration welcomed newly proposed federal EPA restrictions on coal power plants.
EPA’s Clean Power Plan, announced June 2, requires a 30 percent cut in power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. The regulations allow states some latitude in formulating plans to meet their mandated emissions cuts, but states will almost certainly shut down much or all of their coal power plants to meet the mandates. Coal is the least expensive widely available source of electricity, but it also emits the most carbon dioxide.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a report finding EPA’s carbon dioxide restrictions will kill 224,000 jobs and reduce the nation’s economic output by $51 billion per year. The carbon dioxide restrictions will cost the average U.S. household nearly $500 per year.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed restrictions, with EPA expected to issue final regulations by June 2015.
Congress Rejected Similar Restrictions
In 2009, President Obama urged Congress to pass legislation severely restricting carbon dioxide emissions. Congress voted down the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill despite Democrats holding large majorities in both chambers of Congress.
Democrats and Republicans alike criticized the Obama administration’s newly proposed restrictions and the Obama administration’s decision to circumvent Congress through the EPA.
Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (AR) said, “I have serious concerns that the EPA’s proposal will undermine the affordable and reliable electricity Arkansans currently enjoy. I will continue to speak with Arkansas stakeholders to gauge how this rule could impact our state’s economy and jobs.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich (AK) said he has “long been skeptical of this administration and their understanding of Alaska’s unique needs when it comes to energy policy and this will be no different.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) said, “While it is important to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, this should not be achieved by EPA regulations. Congress should set the terms, goals and timeframe. Greater use of natural gas and stronger efficiency measures adopted by the industry have already helped us reduce carbon emissions to their lowest levels in 20 years, and this should continue.”
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky said she will “fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry.”
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tennant of West Virginia said, “I will stand up to President Obama, [EPA Administrator] Gina McCarthy, and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs.”
High Costs, Few Benefits
Energy economists shared the Democrats’ concerns.
“Not only will the proposed rule dramatically increase costs to the American consumer, it is unlikely to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide,” said Thomas Tanton, president of T2 & Associates energy consultants.
“As our productive activity wanes even further, other countries will pick up the slack,” Tanton explained. “Because those countries are generally more carbon-intensive, that productive activity elsewhere will lead to increased, not decreased, global carbon dioxide emissions, through leakage. This is simply another case of penalizing our successful industry that has made great strides in productivity and efficiency.”
“This proposed regulation is all pain and no gain. This is supposed to be about climate, but even if you trust the United Nations climate models, this regulation would result in no climatically relevant decrease in warming,” said Daniel Simmons, director of state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research. “In fact, EPA didn’t even bother to run a climate model to show how this would affect climate because they knew the results were too small.”
“This regulation is about federal control over electricity generation in the states and it is about fulfilling the President’s promise to make electricity prices ‘necessarily skyrocket,'” Simmons explained.
Christie’s Record on the Issue
Christie has frustrated global warming alarmists and skeptics alike during his tenure as New Jersey Governor.
In 2011, Christie told reporters, “When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts.” His statement drew criticism from skeptical scientists, though the statement did not indicate whether Christie thought global warming is a crisis as claimed by environmental activists. Most so-called skeptics agree climate change is occurring and human activities have contributed.
In 2011, Christie pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative of Northeastern states, saying the “gimmicky program” did not effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also in 2011, Christie lowered the state’s 30-perecnt renewable power goal to 22 percent. In 2013, Christie refused to join eight Northeastern governors signing a petition urging tighter EPA controls on coal power plants in Midwestern states. In May of this year, he rejected a reporter’s assertion that global warming contributed to Hurricane Sandy, saying, “I don’t think there’s been any proof thus far that Sandy was caused by climate change.”
Nevertheless, the Christie administration appears to be rallying around Obama’s costly proposed carbon dioxide restrictions. According to NJTV News, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said the Christie administration supports the Obama administration’s proposed carbon dioxide restrictions. Ragonese said New Jersey is in better position than other states to comply with the proposed restrictions.
Environment & Climate News contacted the New Jersey DEP and spokesman Ragonese’s office to verify the NJTV report. Ragonese’s office promised to have a spokesman return the call and verify the NJTV story, but had not followed up on that promise when this story went to press.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.