It is a battle between environmentalists and the Christie administration still being played out in courts -- the latest skirmish occurring last week in Trenton in a hearing before an appeals panel.
The hearing focused on whether the Christie administration was justified in pulling New Jersey out of a multistate initiative aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.
The program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is viewed by proponents as a model on how the nation can curb pollution from power plants that increase global warming. Critics, including Gov. Chris Christie, deride the effort as ineffective, amounting only to another tax on utility customers.
Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council argued to the appellate panel that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ignored state law when it ended power plant pollution limits by simply posting an announcement on the DEP website.
The issue is important to the environmental community because many activists worry that the state will fail to meet aggressive goals to curb greenhouse gases without big cuts in emissions from power plants, the second-largest source of pollution contributing to global warming after the transportation sector (including cars and buses).
By 2050, according to a state law enacted in 2007, New Jersey needs to cap emissions from greenhouse gases to 80 percent of 2006 levels, a target many now view as improbable to achieve.
Indeed, based on data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, power plants account for eight of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Two refineries account for the other big polluters, but the sources of other greenhouse gas emissions run the gamut -- colleges, garbage incinerators, and even a brewery in Newark. None of those would be subject to provisions of the RGGI law, if New Jersey opts to go back into the program.
Here is a list of the top 10 sources of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, according to the EPA.
The 1,204-megawatt facility runs on natural gas and is operated by PSEG Power, a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group, the owner of the state’s largest gas and electric utility, Public Service Electric & Gas.
A familiar site for those traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike, the refinery first began operating in 1907 as part of the Standard Oil Trust. It is located in Linden on New York Harbor. As noted above, this facility would not be subjected to the RGGI program.
A 1,576-megawatt natural gas plant, also operated by PSEG Power. It is primarily a peaking plant, running at times of peak demand.
The Carlyle Group acquired the 823-megawatt natural gas plant in Sayreville this past September. The plant is profitable because it operates under long-term power purchase agreements to provide electricity to other facilities.
Originally built in 1992, the 760-megawatt gas plant is owned by El Paso Energy and also is a familiar sight to drivers along the New Jersey Turnpike. A cogeneration, or combined heat and power plant, that uses both electricity and heat.
Owned by PBF Holding Company LLC, the 180,000-barrel-per-day refinery on the Delaware River was purchased from Valero Energy in 2010.
Located on the grounds of the DuPont Chambers Work facility in the township of the same name, the 245-megawatt, coal-fired cogeneration unit supplies power to some of Atlantic City Electric’s customers as well as heat and electricity to the company’s facility.
The 430-megawatt cogeneration plant is located in Sayreville.
The 242-megawatt coal-fired power plant is located in Swedesboro. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) owns the unit.
Also owned by PSEG Power, the unit, which runs on gas and oil, produces 617 megawatts of power, primarily used to meet peak electricity demand.