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Christie Rejects Bill to Rejoin RGGI, for Third (and Last) Time

Governor claims NJ has no need to rejoin initiative since it is already a leader in curbing carbon emissions and has met its own mandated standards

Polluting smokestack

For the third time, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday vetoed a bill that would have the state rejoin a regional effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, a policy surely to be reversed by his successor, whoever he or she may be.

Christie, who pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative five years ago, once again blocked legislative efforts to participate in the program, dismissing it as “an unnecessary, politically motivated tax increase.’’

The initiative, a collaboration of nine states in the Northeast, is a cap-and-trade program placing a tax on carbon emissions eventually passed on to electric customers. Money raised from the program is put into a special fund distributed to participating states to finance a variety of clean-energy projects.

Rejoining RGGI

Clean-energy advocates, lawmakers, and environmentalists have long advocated having the state rejoin RGGI, arguing it is one of the effective ways to combat global warming. Both Republican gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno and the Democratic candidate Phil Murphy have said they will rejoin RGGI, if elected.

With the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, an international accord voluntarily committing to reducing greenhouse emissions, many environmentalists say leadership in climate-change initiatives is likely to shift to states and local governments in the absence of strong federal policies.

But Christie, in his veto message, repeated his contention that RGGI is not effective in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Further, he argued that New Jersey is a leader in curbing carbon emissions, having already achieved current goals established by state law to reduce such pollution.

“Pure and simple, the Legislature demonstrates its preference for higher taxes and social engineering, ignoring the overwhelming evidence proving the RGGI to be a failure,’’ the governor said in his veto message.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), the sponsor of the bill (A-4701), however, argued it is time the state rejoin the program.

‘More shoreline to lose’

“New Jersey has more shoreline to lose than most other states and it’s unfortunate that Gov. Christie sees fit to use the beach for his own pleasure while laying a path of destruction for future generations,’’ Eustace said in a statement. “This veto recklessly undermines the environmentally dangerous and visible effects of pollution and climate change, some of which we already have seen in the powerfully destructive storms like Superstorm Sandy.’’

The veto comes a day after a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists detailed how up to 131 communities in New Jersey could be subject to chronic flooding as sea levels rise due to climate change.

Environmentalists also criticized the governor for vetoing the bill.

“The program has gotten stronger and more effective despite New Jersey’s absence,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Gov. Christie’s intransigence is predictable and infuriating.’’

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, predicted the next governor will put New Jersey back into the regional initiative. “It’s the governor’s last stand with the Koch brothers against New Jersey,’’ he said, referring to the billionaire energy executives who have fought against efforts to combat climate change.

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