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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

The measure says that New Jersey's withdrawal is inconsistent with the intention of the state's global warming act, and makes it known to Christie and future governors that the legislature wants the state to remain a member of the carbon market.

"We want to make sure that ... we are explicitly saying that we want to be a member of the RGGI compact," Chivukula told SolveClimate News.

The chairman said he was confident that both measures would fair well in the Assembly, though votes would most likely fall along party lines. The Assembly has 47 Democrats and 33 Republicans, while the Senate has 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans. To override a governor's veto, both houses need a two-thirds majority.

The Assembly panel also approved , which urges the passage of an amendment to the state constitution that would require money placed into the Clean Energy Fund to be used solely for clean energy programs.

Last year, Christie diverted an estimated $65 million from RGGI revenues to help balance a $10.7 billion budget.

New Jersey so far has raised more than in carbon allowances from the 12 quarterly online auctions that have been held since 2008. The overall program has raised $886.4 million in that time.

Is RGGI at Risk?

The auctioned allowances represent greenhouse gas emissions that power plants generated during the current 2009-2011 compliance period. At the most recent auction held on June 8 — the twelfth in the scheme's four years — every state but New Jersey offered a small number of carbon credits for the upcoming 2012-2014 period.

Only 30 percent of carbon credits offered were actually sold in the auction, which some RGGI opposition groups said was a sign the market had crashed.

Emilie Mazzacurati, head of carbon research for North America at , a Thomson Reuters research firm, attributed the drop in auction sales to emitters having already met their targets for the 2009-2011 compliance period.

She explained that because emitters had amassed enough allowances for this period, they can now bank the excess credits without having to purchase again this year — though she stressed that a better option may be possible

Lowering the emissions cap for power plants, which is set at 188 million short tons per year through 2014, would require emitters to purchase more credits and not use old allowances to offset new emissions, Mazzacurati told SolveClimate News.

"I think it would be a good thing to incentivize further emission reductions, and it would probably bring prices up and bring the market activity up," she said.

She added that New Jersey's potential withdrawal would not have an impact on upcoming auctions, as the cap will be adjusted to reflect the loss of the state's emissions.

'Litmus Test' for Christie

Assemblyman Chivukula said that given the RGGI fund's contributions to New Jersey's clean energy economy, the three Assembly bills and two Senate measures could serve as a "litmus test" for Christie's commitment to developing more renewables and energy efficiency programs in the state.

"It will show how green he is," he said.

RGGI has led to more than $35 million in clean energy investments in New Jersey alone since the first auction, which contributed to nearly $90 million in energy savings and $209 million in economic activity in the state, according from the 29-state advocacy group .

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