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NJ Legislators Working to Block Christie's Carbon Market Exit

State lawmakers have moved five bills in an attempt to stop Gov. Christie's planned year-end RGGI withdrawal

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jun 24, 2011
New Jersey State Legislature

Update (June 30): The New Jersey State Senate approved two senate bills on June 27 — S-2946 and SCR-164 — that seek to keep the state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The measures passed by a thin margin, 21 to 18. Supporters would need 27 votes to overcome a veto by Gov. Christie. The Assembly approved the same bills on June 29, in a 44 to 34 vote.

New Jersey Democrats are pushing a series of bills that would sideline Republican Gov. Chris Christie's plans to withdraw the state from the U.S. Northeast's carbon market.

Legislators admit that the governor would likely veto the measures if they land on his desk. But the sponsors remain hopeful that their bills, which try to limit Christie's power on the issue, could at least influence future lawsuits or other enforcement actions over the state's participation in the (RGGI).

The legislation "absolutely clears up any ambiguity of [Christie] being able to pull us out unilaterally," John McKeon, chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, told SolveClimate News.

Christie vowed at a to pull New Jersey out of RGGI by year's end. The initiative of 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states caps CO2 emissions from power plants and auctions off carbon allowances to fund statewide clean energy efforts.

"RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment," Christie said in transcripts provided to SolveClimate News by the governor's office.

Local media reported that Christie administration officials did not think the new bills would keep New Jersey from exiting the program. A spokesperson for Christie did not respond to requests for comments by deadline.

Question of Legislative Permission

New Jersey passed its RGGI law in 2007 to help meet the goals of its (GWRA), which requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. By 2050, emissions must fall 80 percent below 2006 levels.

Last week, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and the Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved two sets of identical bills that invoke the state's warming law in an attempt to keep Christie from unilaterally withdrawing from RGGI.

The (A-4108, S-2946) clarifies the intent of the 2007 RGGI law, which the bill's authors say mandates New Jersey's participation in the multistate scheme.

It notes that the RGGI law partially implements the GWRA by reducing levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and says that Christie cannot pull out of the pact without first getting legislative permission.

"We are a country of laws. By disregarding the intent of the legislature, which required New Jersey to be a member of RGGI, Gov. Christie is ignoring the will of the people," McKeon said in a news release by the Assembly panel.

McKeon said the panel recently received testimony showing that more than 10,000 New Jerseyans signed petitions or sent emails in the past two weeks calling on Christie to stay in RGGI.

Stender added: "Pulling out of RGGI would lead to the dismantling of a series of well-coordinated initiatives like the GWRA that have helped our state reduce global warming pollution and advance towards a clean energy future.

"We are determined not to let that happen through the measures we have sponsored," she said in the release.

The Assembly bills' primary sponsors are McKeon and Utilities Committee Chairman Upendra Chivukula, along with Linda Stender, Peter Barnes III, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Environment and Energy Committee Chairman Bob Smith are primary sponsors of the first Senate bill, while Smith and Linda Greenstein are primary sponsors of the second bill.

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