McKeon, Gusciora & Vainieri Huttle Bill Requiring NJ to Rejoin the RGGI Program Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would require the state to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. 

"The governor's removal of the state from the RGGI program has cost the state millions of dollars allocated for clean energy projects and will continue to do so until we go back," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This bill makes clear the intent of the Legislature when it proposed legislation to allow the state to partake in the RGGI, and mandates that New Jersey rejoin the program."

The bill (A-1493) would clarify the intent of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) implementing law, which allowed the state to participate in the program, and specifically requires the state's participation in the program The Christie administration removed the state from the RGGI program in 2011. The goal of the RGGI is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across several Northeast and mid-Atlantic states from Maine to Maryland by 10 percent by 2020.

"The intent of the Legislature is the same today as it was in 2007, when it proposed the bill that enabled the state to participate in the program," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Our inclusion in the program means less pollution and reduced energy costs. It is essential that we go back."

"The state's participation in the regional initiative can help lower energy bills for taxpayers, lower pollution levels and allow for greater investment in green projects," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "It is imperative for this and future generations that we rejoin the other states in the RGGI."
The law, commonly referred to as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or the RGGI implementing law, was enacted to further the purposes of the "Global Warming Response Act". 

The law partially implements the policies of the GWRA by creating an emissions auction and trading mechanism to reduce the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, namely carbon dioxide (CO2). At the time the GWRA and the RGGI implementing law were going through the legislative process, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) were already actively engaged in RGGI, as New Jersey was a signatory state on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2005 by Governor Codey, and as subsequently amended and signed by Governor Corzine in 2006 and again in 2007. In addition, in 2004, the DEP published in the New Jersey Register proposed rules that would revise several air pollution control rules to redefine carbon dioxide as an air contaminant, and noted in the description of the proposal that the clarification of the status of CO2 is a regulatory prelude to anticipated future regulatory adoption of a Model Rule proposed through the RGGI, and that the state was participating through RGGI. If the Legislature did not intend for New Jersey to participate in RGGI, the Legislature had ample opportunity at that time to specify that the state should not participate in the regional initiative. 

The law clearly recognizes the state's participation in RGGI by setting forth the parameters to be followed for allowances auctions, and creating the "Global Warming Solutions Fund" (GWSF) and statutorily dedicating all the proceeds received from the sale, exchange or other conveyance of allowances through a greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading program to the fund. If the Legislature did not intend for the state to implement a greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading program and participate in RGGI, it would not have needed to pass the legislation enacted into law.

The bill was released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.