Last year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection illegally declared that NJ was no longer regulating greenhouse gases and was dropping out of the popular and effective Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state compact that cuts air pollution from power plants, generates revenue for the state, reduces energy costs for consumers and businesses, and creates jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. Last summer, the state’s Senate and Assembly voted to resist this action and keep New Jersey involved in the beneficial program. Christie vetoed the legislation.
Now, I’m happy to say that New Jersey’s statehouse is not taking “no” for an answer. Today, the Assembly is expected to vote again to authorize New Jersey’s participation in RGGI. The State Senate already passed a similar bill in March.
Why is the legislature so persistent? For one reason: RGGI works.
Study after study shows that in New Jersey and across the region, RGGI is bringing in significant environmental and economic benefits. It has created 16,000 job-years’ worth of work in the 10 participating New England and Mid-Atlantic states. (A job year is just what it sounds like: one year’s worth of work.) It has generated more $1.6 billion of economic activity, will reduce the average family’s electric bill by $25, and has helped cut climate change pollution in the region by about 30 percent since it started. It does this by ensuring that Northeasterners send fewer of their energy dollars out of state to import coal and other fossil fuels and spends more of them in their local communities, making our homes, offices and factories more energy efficient and investing in solar and wind energy.
During New Jersey’s participation in RGGI, the sale of pollution permits has generated $125 million for the state to invest in local, job-creating energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Despite the fact that Governor Christie diverted more than half of those funds to plug budget holes, the state was still able to generate $159 million in local benefits, and create 1,800 job-years worth of work.
RGGI is also helping to keep NJ electric bills lower than they would be. And it’s reducing harmful air pollution that contributes to climate change and inflames cardiovascular health problems in adults and children. No wonder RGGI won the endorsement of former Republican New Jersey governor and 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean.
Ensuring the state’s continued participation in RGGI offers New Jerseyans the kind of benefits few pieces of legislation can—jobs, lower energy bills and less pollution. And passing this bill heeds the will of the voters, as polling shows New Jersey residents support the goals of the program.
That’s why it’s likely the Assembly will pass its pro-RGGI legislation today. If it does, let’s hope Governor Christie listens to the wisdom of his state’s elected representatives, rather than to out of state interests in the dirty fuel industry. This time he should sign the legislation into law.