New Jersey Seeking to Cap CO2 Emissions

Published February 1, 2005

New Jersey state officials are proceeding with plans to classify carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant, thereby allowing state regulators to cap CO2 emissions in the name of preventing global warming.

Recent public hearings brought out much opposition to the plan.

“Unilaterally requiring reductions in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants in New Jersey would be a costly task that would ultimately be borne by consumers in the form of higher energy costs,” Dr. Jim Sinclair, vice president for environmental affairs of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, told the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in November testimony.

On September 16, shortly before stepping down from office, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) announced the state’s executive agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), will “revise several air pollution control rules, bringing them in line with current scientific consensus that carbon dioxide is an air contaminant.”

Claiming CO2 a Pollutant

Despite McGreevey’s assertion, the classification of carbon dioxide as an “air contaminant” is highly controversial. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled in August 2003 that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

“The idea that carbon dioxide could be considered a pollutant is totally without scientific support,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute, in testimony submitted December 10 to the New Jersey state legislature.

“Carbon dioxide is the lifeblood of all living plants on the planet, just as oxygen fuels humankind,” Lehr continued. “The 30 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 60 years has spurred growth of vegetation around the world, distinctly benefiting humankind. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has itself sponsored more than 200 experiments, growing a variety of crops in a CO2-enhanced environment, with across-the-board increases in plant yields.”

Added Lehr, “Vegetation in arid climates is benefiting the most. … Forests throughout the world are similarly prospering. Even the fabled equatorial rainforests are experiencing increases in the total volume of woody material.”

“Why would you regulate a ‘pollutant’ that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe?” asked Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “That’s not a pollutant.”

Dubious Sea Level Fears

In addition to classifying carbon dioxide as a contaminant, the DEP, as reported in the September 17 Greenwire, will release a “formal determination” that CO2 emissions are linked to “significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment by contributing to global warming.”

“As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the consequences of global warming,” said McGreevey.

Experts disputed that assertion. “Virtually all of the scare stories bandied about by environmental extremists who link increased atmospheric CO2 to catastrophic global warming are unfounded,” Lehr advised the New Jersey legislature. “Extreme weather events are not on the increase. … Additionally, it is far more likely that a warming Earth will yield a lowering of sea level than an increase. More heat means more evaporation from the oceans, leading to more precipitation, and thus more moisture stored as ice at the Earth’s poles.”

“The best estimate for sea level rise for the next half century is about four inches,” said Patrick Michaels, research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and past president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

James Hoare ([email protected]) is managing attorney at the Syracuse, New York, office of McGivney, Kluger & Gannon.