GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Divided on Energy, Environment

Guadagno favors regional approach to greenhouse-gas emissions; for Ciattarelli, a national program makes more sense

Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez, Pool
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli during a Republican gubernatorial primary debate
This story is part of a regular series exploring where the candidates stand on major issues and assessing key considerations in this year’s elections. Follow these links for look at the hottest district races; an overview of the legislative landscape; the candidates’ plans to ease New Jersey’s fiscal crisis; why the Democrats favor single-payer healthcare; and the reasons the Republicans are cool on the ACA replacement bill.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli share many Republican values, but they find a lot to disagree about when it comes to energy and environmental policies in their quest to be the next governor of New Jersey.

The two leading GOP gubernatorial candidates diverge most markedly on issues relating to how to deal with what many view as the paramount issue of the times — climate change.

Guadagno, in contrast to her rival and to Gov. Chris Christie, favors the state rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort to clamp down on carbon pollution from power plants in the Northeast. The program taxes power plants emitting gases contributing to global warming.

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Christie, to the dismay of clean-energy advocates, pulled New Jersey out of the program early in his term in 2011, and repeatedly vetoed efforts by the Democratic Legislature to rejoin the program. Like Christie, Ciattarelli does not support RGGI, believing it ineffective because some states, notably Pennsylvania, have failed to participate.

Calling for a national policy

“We need a national environmental and energy policy,’’ the Somerset Republican said of climate change. “We can’t solve it one state or one region at a time.’’

Guadagno, who declined to talk to NJ Spotlight, only providing written answers to a questionnaire, said she believes in climate change and that the state should participate in RGGI.

“In general, I support market-based mechanisms to incent actions that have beneficial environmental impacts, including the reduction of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,’’ she wrote about whether she would rejoin RGGI.

Neither candidate has spent much time in the campaign focusing on environmental or energy issues, however. They are not even addressed on their websites, unless vows by both to streamline regulations, a priority of both, are viewed from the perspective of easing the state’s stringent environmental standards.

“We have to strike the right balance between environmental stewardship, but don’t want so heavy environmental regulations that we are undermining growth and inconveniencing citizens,’’ Ciattarelli said.

Guadagno won plaudits from business groups for her leadership in chairing the Christie administration’s Red Tape Review Commission, a group put together to streamline state regulations.

Forging ahead on renewable energy

Guadagno is more supportive of pressing forward aggressively the state’s reliance on renewable energy. The former Monmouth County sheriff said utilities must make investments to increase energy efficiency, as well to integrate solar and offshore wind power into energy policy. Increasing the state’s reliance on renewables will achieve the goal of a state law calling for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, she said.

Ciattarelli, a 55-year-old Hillsborough resident, opposes offshore wind as too costly, and argues some of the renewable technologies being pushed by the state are not yet ready for prime time. “We are wasting taxpayers’ dollars if we rush these technologies. We should allow the free market to work its magic,’’ he said.

On the issue of nuclear power, the Somerset lawmaker is against handing any kind of subsidies to the state’s nuclear power plants, which have been hard-hit by low natural gas prices, hurting them economically in a competitive market.

“The answer is not always to provide incentives; the answer is to take them away,’’ Ciattarelli. “When we are providing incentives to solar and wind, we are undermining nuclear power.’’

New Jersey faces challenges to meet the energy needs of the state with the closing of Oyster Creek at the end of 2019, Guadagno said. “I believe that nuclear power should be part of the solutions as we look to have more clean energy produced here,’’ the 57-year-old Monmouth Beach resident said. “As governor, I will explore ways to keep safe nuclear power economically viable.’’

With more and more schools finding unsafe levels of lead in drinking water, Ciattarelli suggested the way to address the problem is through public/private partnerships.

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