TRENTON (March 25, 2014)—A New Jersey court ruled this morning that the Christie Administration broke the law when it excused power plants from complying with regulations limiting dangerous climate-changing pollution.
“Today’s court decision—together with the substantial economic, environmental and public health benefits the program has demonstrated in neighboring states—should compel New Jersey to give RGGI another look,” said Dale Bryk, Energy and Transportation Program Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled today in favor of Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a lawsuit the organizations brought against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2012. The year before, when the Christie Administration posted a notice on a website that power plants no longer had to comply with pollution limits, it effectively ended New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI), a nine-state program that has been reducing climate-changing pollution from East Coast power plants for the last five years.
“The Christie Administration sidestepped the public process required by law,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming. We hope that today’s ruling will help their voices be heard.”
“Neither Governor Christie nor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection can simply repeal state laws by fiat,” said Susan Kraham, Senior Staff Attorney at Columbia University’s Environmental Law Clinic, who represented the environmental groups in court. “The court gave the administration 60 days to initiate a public process around any changes to the climate change pollution rules.”
RGGI has been an environmental – and economic – success
Designed by a bipartisan group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic governors in the mid-2000s, already RGGI has significantly helped reduce carbon pollution, while at the same time supporting economic development, creating new jobs and saving consumers money on energy.
Specifically, since it took effect in 2009, RGGI has proven itself to be a pollution-cutting, economy-boosting powerhouse by:
- Helping to reduce regional climate-change pollution by more than 30 percent, demonstrating that states can successfully clean up climate-altering pollution from power plants, just as they have successfully reduced emissions of arsenic, lead, soot and other types of power plant pollution;
- Creating more than 23,000 job-years (aka one year’s worth of work)—in the nine remaining RGGI states;
- Implementing energy-efficiency measures that will save ratepayers of all kinds—residential, business and industrial—more than $1.8 billion on their energy bills; and
- Adding $2.4 billion in economic activity to the RGGI region.
"RGGI is a perfect example of a program that has not only been good for the environment but has also provided key benefits to business," said Judy Albert, Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity. "It has already added over $2.4 billion in economic value to the RGGI states. In addition, consumers have benefitted from increased energy efficiency and lower electricity rates and bills."
When withdrawing from RGGI in 2011, Governor Christie acknowledged that climate change is real and that it is already having an impact on New Jersey, but expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the program—but the facts now speak for the themselves.
“Governor Christie’s fears can be put to rest,” said Travis Madsen, Senior Program Manager for Environment New Jersey. “The evidence is clear: RGGI works.”
RGGI can help New Jersey – and other states – comply with forthcoming federal standards
As part of the Climate Action Plan President Obama announced last year, the Environmental Protection Agency will be creating federal standards to reduce climate change pollution from power plants nationwide. EPA will issue carbon pollution standards for existing power plants this June, and all 50 states will be required to develop proposals to meet those standards by 2016. If they don’t, the EPA will develop a generic plan they can adopt.
In all likelihood the EPA will consider RGGI to be an appropriate compliance mechanism. Last December, the RGGI states submitted comments to EPA, offering the RGGI program as a proven, cost-effective “benchmark for national action.”
“Soon, every state in the country is going to have to crack down on their dirty fossil fuel powers plants—why not do it with a program that’s proven to create jobs, lower bills and boost your local economy?” said Bryk.
Broad public support for action on climate
Hurricane Sandy killed more than 30 people and caused as much as $30 billion in losses in New Jersey. Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that Sandy-scale coastal flooding is nearly twice as likely now as it was in 1950 because of warming-driven sea-level rise. Without action to cut carbon pollution, the shore could see Sandy-scale storm surges every year within this century.
As people learn more about the impacts of global warming, support for action on climate continues to rise. For example, a recent Stanford University study showed nationwide bipartisan support for limits on global warming pollution from power plants. Support approached or exceeded 80 percent in both traditionally Democratic states such as New York (84 percent) and Washington (84 percent), as well as traditionally Republican states such as Arizona (81 percent) and Kentucky (78 percent). In New Jersey, support for reducing carbon pollution from power plants reached 83 percent.