Gov. Chris Christie (R) has announced New Jersey will withdraw from a regional climate agreement. The withdrawal will go into effect by the end of this year.
Describes Pact as Ineffective
Christie told the press he believes climate change is occurring and humans are a contributing cause, but the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative of Northeastern states (RGGI) has been costly and ineffective.
RGGI was forged among 10 states in 2005 for the purpose of lowering greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2018.
“This program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future,” Christie told reporters at a May 26 press conference. “The whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It is a failure.”
The remaining RGGI participants include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, and Vermont. The program requires power plants to buy pollution allowances to pay for carbon emissions. The plants can trade these allowances among themselves as long as the total for the 10 states does not surpass the levels called for in the compact. When the agreement went into effect, it became the first regional emissions agreement implemented in the nation.
Criticisms of RGGI have been widespread.
“RGGI was a failure as an environmental protection policy and especially harmful to New Jersey’s competitiveness,” said Paul Tyahla, executive director of The Common Sense Institute of New Jersey. “A regional pact has no impact on climate change, and as a state on the geographic edge of the pact, it was possible for less-efficient out-of-state plants to produce electricity less expensively that what was being generated in New Jersey.”
More States May Follow
New Jersey isn’t the only state backing away from the program.
In New Hampshire, the House of Representatives passed a bill withdrawing the state from RGGI, and the Senate passed a separate bill that would do so only if another Massachusetts also withdraws. The fate of both bills is still unclear. In Delaware, House Energy Committee members considered—but tabled—a bill to withdraw that state from participation in RGGI.
Other governors and legislators around the nation are likewise showing waning enthusiasm for regional climate pacts proposed for their areas. Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona (R), for instance, signed an executive order last year preventing her state from joining the Western Climate Initiative.
Lisa Jackson, administrator for the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, urged Christie to reconsider his decision, calling the regional pact a successful program that reduces pollution and creates jobs.
But as Tyahla said, even program supporters recognized it might not have been all about the environment.
“Even some advocates … acknowledged it could be used as a rainy day fund for the state, and supported keeping it for that reason, even though it’s a violation of the law’s original intent,” he said.
Thanks to Christie’s decision, “New Jersey’s ratepayers will receive welcome relief in the midst of today’s high energy prices,” said Tyahla.
Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from northern Virginia.