Governor Christie's Efforts to Stay the EPA's Clean Power Plan Would Shoot NJ in the Foot


Sometimes, New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie and the state's Department of Environmental Protection don't know when they've got a good thing going. Or when they're out of step with the will of the people of New Jersey and the state's legislators. That's the case now, as New Jersey tries to halt implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP) to cut carbon pollution from the nation's largest polluter: our power plants. (DEP's first step in this process was filing an administrative stay with the EPA on September 2nd. Its next step could be to challenge the CPP in court.)

The Christie administration's effort to stop the EPA's Clean Power Plan could end up shooting New Jersey in the foot--denying the state the many economic, public health, and environmental benefits that come with cutting power-plant carbon pollution. (Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr)

Never mind that a large majority of New Jersey residents and legislators support the plan. Or that it will create tens of thousands of new jobs, cut families' electric bills by an estimated $85 a year, and reduce by almost one-third the carbon pollution from power plants that turbocharges extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. (That superstorm, you will recall, led to significant loss of life and tens of billions of dollars worth of economic damage in the Garden State.)

Shooting its state in the foot is nothing new for the governor and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, unfortunately. Such was also the case in 2011, when Christie illegally pulled New Jersey out of the path-breaking, job-creating, carbon-pollution-cutting program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That nine-state program in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region has been used by New Jersey's neighbors to great effect: It's created 14,000 jobs, cut consumer energy bills by $460 million so far with hundreds of millions in more savings to come, and added $1.3 billion to the regional economy, all while significantly cutting carbon pollution from the region's power plants. (In fact, a new study from researchers at Duke University finds that, all on its own, RGGI cut carbon emissions by 19 percent in the region.)

Now, when presented with a similar opportunity in the form of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, the governor and the DEP are at it again, even though New Jersey's largest utility has endorsed the CPP, as have a large number of civic groups, religious congregations, labor organizations and community institutions. The Christie administration insists the plan will cause an unnecessary burden on the state. Yet, the truth is, meeting New Jersey's targets under the CPP can be straightforward and relatively easy. All the Garden State need do is re-up with the time-tested RGGI program, or adopt a plan that enables carbon emissions trading in the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that includes New Jersey. According to PJM's modeling of the proposed CPP rule (they will be updating that analysis now that the rule is final), an approach that involves regional, "trade ready" plans would be roughly 30% cheaper than states going it alone.

Of course, New Jersey needn't continue along the path of most resistance to the CPP. The governor and the DEP can get right with its citizens, and many of its leading businesses and legislators, by supporting the CPP. It offers New Jersey a host of benefits the state would be crazy to miss.