Today, for the second time in less than a year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has overruled the desires of state voters and their elected representatives by vetoing legislation that would continue New Jersey’s clean-energy leadership, by ensuring the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
RGGI is a 10-state program first designed by a bipartisan group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic governors to reduce the air pollution from power plants; to create jobs by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy; and to save money for electric consumers of all kinds—residential, commercial and industrial.
Study after study shows the program has outperformed even advocates’ most hopeful projections. Since its inception in 2008, RGGI has created almost 18,000 job-years worth of work, added more than $1.8 billion dollars to the regional economy, and helped cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent since it started. (A job-year, by the way, is just what it sounds like: a year’s worth of work.) It has kept $765 million in the region that would have gone elsewhere to buy fossil fuels. Even in New Jersey, where Gov. Christie raided more than half of all RGGI revenue to fill state budget holes, the program has created more than 1,800 jobs and added $159 million to the state economy.
And consumers save, too, according to an independent investigation by the Analysis Group: $25 for the average residential customer; $181 for the average commercial customer; and almost $2500 for industrial consumers region-wide.
Last spring, a few months after he began meeting with oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers Charles and David Koch, Gov. Christie announced he was pulling the Garden State out of RGGI – in a move NRDC is now challenging in court because of Gov. Christie’s failure to follow New Jersey law requiring proper notice and the opportunity to comment when acting on this declaration.
Twice since his 2011 announcement, both houses of the New Jersey legislature have voted by significant margins to reject this move and keep the state in RGGI. Christie vetoed their first vote last August. And today, he’s again denying New Jerseyans the many public health, environmental, economic and job-creation benefits RGGI brings.
Gov. Christie claims to support clean energy. But by vetoing legislation that would ensure NJ's participation in RGGI, he's undermined clean-energy growth in the state.
Gov. Christie campaigned on the claim that he would be “New Jersey’s Number One Clean Energy Advocate.” Yet this action undermines that goal. Because RGGI invests most of its revenue in energy efficiency programs and renewable energy, it is one of the nation’s most successful jump-starters of clean energy development. Consider the RGGI-underwritten solar array at William Paterson University in Wayne, which will save the state-funded institution more than $4 million over the next 15 years. Or the energy-efficient power system at brand-new University Medical Center of Princeton hospital, in Plainsboro. It uses only half the energy a conventional system would, thanks to RGGI’s underwriting help.
It’s easy to see why polling results show New Jersey’s residents support the goals of RGGI. And they aren’t taking Governor Christie’s many efforts to destroy the program lying down.
That’s why Environment New Jersey and NRDC are suing the Christie Administration for violating the state’s Administrative Procedure Act. It requires the state provide proper notice and opportunities for public comment when it adopts or changes administrative rules—something the Governor’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to pursue. That’s unfortunate. Had the Governor allowed such a process to proceed, he might have learned how RGGI helps prevent asthma in kids, by reducing power-plant pollution. Or how it’s cutting the carbon pollution that’s helped stoke this summer’s disastrous heat waves. Or, how it helps create jobs for workers like those who installed the solar array at William Paterson—an important point to remember, especially now that New Jersey’s unemployment rate has reached its highest level in three years.
New Jersey’s legislators understand RGGI is good for the state’s economy and its air. When they voted for RGGI, they also understood the will of their constituents, who’ve consistently supported a shift to energy efficiency and renewable energy across the state. Unfortunately, time and time again, Governor Christie has decided to stand in the way.
That’s why NRDC will continue to pursue legal action against the Christie Administration. New Jerseyans’ desire for cleaner air, good jobs, and energy savings deserves to be fulfilled, for good.