Christie Administration Wants Feds to Back Off on Obama Clean Power Plan

Tom Johnson | September 3, 2015 | Energy & Environment
Governor’s critics argue he’s hijacking NJ environment for his presidential ambitions

BL England Power Plant
The Christie administration wants the federal government to stop implementation of an ambitious rule that deals with climate change by clamping down on the emissions that contribute to global warming.

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state said the so-called Clean Power Plan constitutes an unlawful extension of authority by the federal agency and places an unfair burden on states that have significantly reduced carbon emissions from coal-fired power plans and other sources in recent years.

New Jersey joins at least 16 other states seeking to block the rule adopted last month. The plan sets a nationwide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Critics of the plan say will it boost electricity prices for consumers. They also argue that the rule’s tougher emission standards will lead to the shutdown of many coal plants — the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions — could threaten the reliability of the power grid.

The Christie administration’s formal request for an administrative stay and reconsideration of the plan is not a surprise. In 2014 when the plan was first proposed, the state Department of Environmental Protection called the rule fundamentally flawed.

In a press release issued by the DEP yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie renewed his criticism of the plan, repeating the assertion that it is fundamentally flawed.

“The Clean Power Plan is yet another example of the Obama administration inappropriately reaching far beyond its legal authority to implement more onerous and burdensome regulations on businesses and state governments alike,’’ the governor said.

[related]To some backers of the Obama plan, however, another factor is in play. “[Christie’s] hijacking New Jersey’s environment for his presidential campaign,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and one of the governor’s harshest critics.

But in the |letter to the EPA, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the rule cannot be implemented due to “vague, ambiguous, uncertain provisions that remain unsolved.” He, too, warned of unjustifiable increases in electricity costs, particularly in states that already have invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Martin said it also punishes states that have already significantly reduced carbon emissions. Between 2001-2012, New Jersey reduced such emissions from its power sector by 33 percent, according to DEP.

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz also weighed in against the EPA plan, saying it would threaten the reliability of the electric grid, ‘’leading to brownouts and rolling blackouts and ultimately higher electricity costs.’’

Unlike most other states, much of New Jersey’s electricity (52 percent) is generated by nuclear power plants, which produce no carbon emissions. As a result, most of the climate-changing pollution stems from the transportation sector instead of power plants.

To environmentalists, the state’s stance underscores its lack of commitment to addressing climate change.

“Gov. Christie needs to go back to school,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “It’s not enough to talk about global warming. You need policies in place to reduce carbon emissions.’’

But Mike Proto, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group generally opposed to new regulations, agreed with the Christie administration, saying that the Clean Power Plan is suspect from a legal perspective. “We don’t think the state should do anything (to implement the plan),’’ he said.

If New Jersey fails to implement a state plan to deal with carbon emissions, then the EPA will impose a plan on the state, O’Malley said.