NJ Joins Multi-State Plan to Curb Pollution from Trucks, Buses, Other Vehicles

Tom Johnson | December 19, 2018 | Energy & Environment
Regional initiative will include a cap on carbon emissions from the combustion of traditional transportation fuels

Credit: Adam Allington/Marketplace
trucks port newark
New Jersey is joining a regional effort to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

Yesterday’s announcement comes on the heels of the state’s move one day earlier to rejoin a multi-state effort to curb carbon pollution from power plants. The latter is seen as a signal of the Murphy administration’s commitment to more aggressive policies to deal with global warming in a state that’s among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The decision to work with the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) could have even bigger implications than the move to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade program to clamp down on carbon pollution from power plants.

That is because trucks, buses and other vehicles comprise the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey and much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, accounting for 40 percent of the total in the former.

The TCI’s coalition of nine states and the District of Columbia announced an intent to design a new regional low-carbon transportation policy to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of traditional transportation fuels, a program modeled after the RGGI program that works to curb such emissions from power plants.

Accounting for over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions

“Joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative is yet another step forward for New Jersey to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and global warming on our state, where emissions from the transportation sector account for more than 70 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions and more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions,’’ said Catherine McCabe, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In a press release, McCabe said the move fits perfectly with Gov. Phil Murphy’s goals of fighting climate change by rejoining RGGI and working toward a goal for the state of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. It also comes on the same day a New Jersey agency blocked a small offshore wind project off Atlantic City; offshore wind is another top priority of the Murphy administration. The Board of Public Utilities blamed high costs for rejecting a bid to build a small pilot offshore-wind farm nearly three miles from Atlantic City.

Environmentalists welcomed the move to join the transportation initiative. “It’s been a glaring hole in the regional climate strategy,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “It’s a cap-and-trade program by any other name. New Jersey was AWOL during the Christie era,’’ referring to the former governor’s lack of focus on climate change issues.

“Our transportation system is in crisis, and fixing decades of neglect will require strong, aggressive leadership at all levels of government,’’ added Bruce Ho, senior advocate for climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This commitment from Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to transform and modernize our aging transportation system will make us healthier and help meet the transportation needs of all residents.’’

In New Jersey, clean-energy advocates have been frustrated by delays in moving to electrify the state’s transportation sector. Efforts to enact a comprehensive bill to provide rebates to consumers who buy electric vehicles and to incent building out an infrastructure for zero-emission cars have stalled.

The ten members of the initiative are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

Many of those states, but not all, are also members who are committed to promoting zero-emission vehicles under the California Clean Car program. In New Jersey, that program requires the state to have 330,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2025.