New Poll: Strong Support for RGGI in New Jersey

In recent months, out-of-state oil interests have been clamoring for New Jersey’s Governor Christie and the state’s legislature to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in hopes of protecting their billions of dollars in profits at the expense of Americans’ health and economic well-being. But a new poll finds strong support for the program in New Jersey, and indicates it would not be a popular move for the state to drop out of the program.

RGGI is an agreement among 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to lower energy costs, create good-paying jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, and spur innovation, while cutting air pollution from power plants that threatens public health. Study after study shows RGGI offers significant job creation and other financial benefits to the residents of the states that participate.

The main reason for this is that RGGI has substantially increased investment in energy efficiency, which lowers everyone’s energy bills and keeps more of our energy dollars in state – paying contractors to upgrade our air-conditioning and heating systems and weatherize our homes, rather than sending those dollars out of state to import fossil fuels (see more detail on RGGIs benefits here and here). If the Governor pulls out of RGGI, he will deprive New Jerseyans of all those benefits while providing no meaningful savings. That’s because New Jersey is part of a regional market in which energy prices are more frequently set by plants in neighboring states like Pennsylvania or Maryland.  

Yet Governor Chris Christie is under enormous pressure from out-of-state oil interests to re-evaluate the state’s participation in RGGI. As a part of this effort, Americans for Prosperity – a corporate front group funded by the infamous Koch Industries oil firm – recently launched radio and TV ads propagating false information about the program in order to block clean energy, avoid accountability for air and water pollution, and protect their enormous profits. AFP led similar unsuccessful efforts to defeat RGGI in other participating states in recent months – including New Hampshire, Maine and Delaware. Legislators in those states ultimately resisted the out-of-state oil interests’ attempts to derail a program that has brought significant economic, health and environmental benefits.

I’m happy to say Garden Staters aren’t fooled by these deceptive tactics either, a new poll shows. And they don’t want to see the Governor fall for them either. Governor Christie and the legislature should heed the wisdom of these voters as they consider the future of this innovative program, rather than the amped-up voices of out-of-state oil interests.

The poll, released today and conducted for NRDC, finds:

  • A full 74 percent of New Jersey voters want to keep New Jersey energy dollars in state rather than send them out-of-state, or out of the country, to bring in fossil fuels.
  • 69 percent of voters favor homegrown solar energy and offshore wind power over polluting coal.
  •  61 percent would support a program that curbed climate change while also creating jobs and cultivating a clean-energy economy in New Jersey.
  • And, a full 60 percent said they would be willing to pay an additional 75 cents on their monthly energy bills – a number that is higher than most estimated costs, which have actually only gone down thanks to RGGI’s support of energy efficiency programs – to curb power-plant pollution and invest in cleaner, local energy sources like wind and solar.

The results also indicate it would not be a popular move for the Governor to drop out of the program – with more likely voters wanting the Governor to stick with RGGI than leave:

  • 47 percent also said pulling out of RGGI would be inconsistent with the Governor’s stated commitment to the clean energy sector as a way to rebuild New Jersey’s economy and workforce, while only 33 percent thought it would be consistent.

Region-wide, since RGGI launched climate change air pollution is down 30 percent, and energy costs are 15 to 30 percent due in part to RGGI-funded energy efficiency programs. These energy efficiency programs will create nearly 18,000 job years (a year’s worth of work). Overall, because of RGGI, the region’s economy has grown by more than $2.6 billion.

And already, New Jersey’s participation in RGGI has put the state on the road to voters’ clean-energy goals. RGGI has delivered more than $52 million for clean energy projects that support new and existing jobs in the state, and can save consumers and businesses money. If Governor Christie sticks with the program, that number will grow exponentially.

Here’s just a snapshot of what this all means on the ground:

At places like William Paterson University, part of the New Jersey state university system, RGGI has financed a new solar power array which is projected to save more than $4 million over the next 15 years. Those savings will help the University keep tuition low, thereby increasing educational opportunity for New Jersey residents.

In Plainsboro, at the new University Medical Center of Princeton hospital under construction there, RGGI is keeping medical costs down by underwriting a power system that is more than twice as efficient as a conventional one.

And RGGI is helping Governor Christie reach his clean energy goals for New Jersey, directing proceeds from the program toward promotion of his forward-looking Offshore Wind Jobs and Development Act, which puts New Jersey at the forefront of the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind-power industry, and solidifying the state as a national leader in solar power. Indeed, RGGI is helping the governor back up his words with action, making real his assertion that clean energy is a key part of the solution to the economic challenges facing the state.

The Governor’s website reads: “As the country and the rest of the world makes renewable energy a priority, New Jersey has an opportunity and ability to once again become a leader of industry.” It seems voters agree and support him reaching this goal with RGGI.

It’s no surprise out-of-state oil interests have used talky ads to try to deceive residents about the benefits of RGGI, a program that is propelling New Jersey’s clean-energy future. But in this new poll, the voters have spoken. Now, Governor Christie and the legislature need to decide whose voices they’re going to listen to.