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Call for NJ Governor to Repay $65 Million to Carbon Fund

Gov. Chris Christie diverted about $65 million from carbon credit sales to help balance the 2010 state budget

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

May 31, 2011
Gov. Chris Christie

Opposition to RGGI gained attention in the state last fall after legislators from the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee introduced to repeal the state's Global Warming Response Act and withdraw from RGGI.

At the same time, conservative groups (AFP) and the (ALEC) launched media campaigns across the region that blasted RGGI for raising taxes and driving away businesses.

Christie's decision to patch the budget with RGGI funds was an early sign to advocates that the governor might be on board with efforts to withdraw. In February, Christie announced at a town hall meeting that he would reevaluate New Jersey's participation in the carbon market.

Finally, at a in Trenton, Christie confirmed his plans to pull out of the program.

"After extensive review with the [Department of Environmental Protection] and others in my administration, our analysis … reveals that this program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future," he said in transcripts provided to SolveClimate News by the governor's office.

"RGGI allowances were never expensive enough to change behavior as they were intended to and ultimately fuel different choices," Christie said. "In other words, the whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It's a failure.

"RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment," he continued.

Supporters of the initiative were quick to respond, pointing to a from RGGI Inc., a nonprofit group that oversees the program, which found that climate change air pollution across the region had fallen 30 percent since 2008.

Regional energy costs reportedly dropped between 15 and 30 percent, due partly to RGGI-funded energy efficiency programs that created a year's worth of work for nearly 18,000 people across the 10 states.

In New Jersey, the carbon trading program adds about 30 cents to monthly residential energy bills, NRDC's Bryk said.

New Jerseyans Support RGGI, Poll Shows

Coincidentally, the environmental group released just hours ahead of Christie's announcement.

The survey found that 47 percent of respondents said pulling out of RGGI would be inconsistent with Christie's stated clean energy goals, including the implementation of 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind turbines — though 33 percent of respondents said an exit would be consistent with the governor's clean power and job-creation goals.

Seventy-four percent of those polled said they wanted to keep New Jersey energy dollars in the state, rather than spend state money to import fossil fuels from outside sources.

"How is [Christie] going to revitalize New Jersey's economy, create jobs, lower energy bills and lower pollution when he just threw away a program that does that?" Bryk asked. "He has just taken the most effective policy tool that he has out of his tool box."

New Jersey's RGGI withdrawal, however, is not cast in stone.

The governor must complete a lengthy regulatory process, during which time proponents intend to rally support for the initiative. Further, Assemblymen McKeon and Chivukula told SolveClimate News that within the next several weeks, the lawmakers intend to propose legislation that would revoke the governor's authority on RGGI.

"We want to take it out of the governor's jurisdiction and show that what the legislature wants, on behalf of the taxpayers and residents of New Jersey, is for New Jersey to participate in RGGI," Chivukula said.

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