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Greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey increased in 2013 for the first time since at least 2010, although the total amount of gases released was still lower than four years ago, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
An analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) database shows 23.7 million metric tons of gases — predominantly carbon dioxide from fossil fuels — were emitted into the atmosphere by 105 power plants, waste facilities, chemical plants, and other locations throughout the state. That’s about the same as the amount of gas emissions from roughly 5 million cars. Last year’s total was almost 1 percent, or more than 200,000 metric tons, higher than in 2012, but still about 10 percent less than the 26.5 million metric tons released in 2010. Nationally, greenhouse gases measured by the GHGRP rose by 0.6 percent.
The report does not include a full count of all emissions, since only facilities emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent — about the same as the emissions from a car driven 60 million miles — are required to report. Agricultural and land-use emissions also are not included. The EPA estimates this database accounts for as much as 90 percent of all emissions.
Gases that include CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases were given the name greenhouse gases because they trap heat in the atmosphere and make the earth warmer, contributing to climate change.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said greenhouse-gas emissions also rose in the first half of this year and blamed the increases on a number of actions taken by the Christie administration. For instance, he said, the governor pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and shut the state office overseeing climate change-related policies, offered subsidies for the construction of three new natural-gas power plants, deemphasized cleaner solar and wind power, and diverted about $1 billion from a clean-energy fund to balance the state budget.
“Government actions have consequences,” he said. Referring to Christie’s “If you deny climate change, then you’re not going to do anything about it.”
Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, defended the state’s decision to pull out of RGGI and said the state has one of the cleanest power sectors in the country.
He said that since the state withdrew from RGGI in 2011 “we have continued to make positive strides in reducing carbon emissions (and reducing overall air pollution) without what, in effect, is a major tax on energy providers.” Ragonese said that of the 13 states within the PJM transmission region, New Jersey has the lowest CO2 emission rate from its power sector.
Yesterday, an Assembly committee and the full Senate passed identical bills that would stop the DEP from rolling back regulations related to the state’s participation in the regional gas initiative, whose goal is a reduction in greenhouse gases. Tittel said that while New Jersey was a member of RGGI, beginning in 2007, the state “achieved the RGGI greenhouse gas reduction goal of 10 percent in the first three years.”
In New Jersey, the largest greenhouse gas emitter last year was PSEG’s Bergen Generating Station in Ridgefield. Fueled by natural gas, the facility emitted 2.5 million metric tons of gases last year, almost all of it CO2. That’s equal to the electricity usage in 344,000 homes in a year.
The total for New Jersey also does not include 1.1 million metric tons of emissions from local distribution companies and electrical equipment use. The larger of those categories covers about 1 million tons of methane emissions by four companies: PSE&G, responsible for more than three-quarters of the total; South Jersey Gas Company; Elizabethtown Gas; and New Jersey Resources. PSE&G is also the largest emitter of SF6, or Sulfur Hexafluoride, from electric equipment.