Angling to Get New Jersey into the United States Climate Alliance

Lawmakers look to have Garden State join California, New York, other states in a domestic accord to curb carbon-based pollution

Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex)
With President Donald Trump pulling the United States out of a global climate accord, some Democrats are advocating New Jersey join other states in an alliance to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, and his colleague, Sen. Linda Greenstein, plan to introduce legislation to have the state join California, New York, and others that have formed an alliance to curb carbon-based pollution.

The so-called U.S. Climate Alliance is designed to act as a forum to strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information, and implement new programs to curb emissions of greenhouse gases from all sectors of the economy.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said last week they will form an alliance to work to realize the aims of the Paris Agreement — even without leadership from the federal government. Phil Murphy, the frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, pledged to join the alliance if he is elected governor.

New Jersey has often joined regional organizations to deal with air pollution problems, including efforts to reduce exposure to smog or ground-level pollution, the state’s most persistent air pollutant.

At one point, too, it was part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort in the Northeast to reduce pollution from power plants contributing to global warming.

A third veto?

Gov. Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of the program in 2010, however, and has twice vetoed bills to have the state rejoin the initiative. He soon will get an opportunity to veto it once again as another bill to rejoin the program won final legislative approval late last month.

It is unlikely the Republican governor would support joining a new alliance led by three Democratic executives. Last week, Christie, asked about Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, noted he opposed the effort when he ran for president and did not think anything has changed since.

Smith, who is the sponsor of numerous bills trying to help the state reduce carbon pollution, said he was disappointed with Christie’s unwillingness to challenge Trump’s decision, but added New Jersey should move forward anyway.

‘Failed leadership’

“We want to send a message that New Jersey will not allow failed leadership to stop us from acting responsibly and we want to be positioned for the change in administrations,’’ Smith said, referring to a new governor taking office early in January.

Murphy signaled he would join the alliance. “Governors will never have mattered more, and as governor, I will see that we work in partnership with our fellow states for what’s right for our people and nation, regardless of what President Trump says,’’ he said.

New Jersey is part of another multistate initiative that is following California’s lead in promoting the advancement of zero emission vehicles. Beginning next year, a certain percentage of those vehicles must be sold in each of the states participating in the California LEV (low-emission vehicle) program.

As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, Smith said.

“The states have to step forward and provide the leadership needed to prevent the otherwise inevitable consequences of increased air pollution, flooding, droughts, and environmental degradation,’’ said Greenstein, vice chair of the committee.