Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, James Kennedy and Daniel Benson sponsored to require New Jersey's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative gained General Assembly approval on Monday.
The bill (A-4701) would require the state's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among nine states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from the program early in his first term.
"From the very beginning, we believed that entering into agreements with other states would further the purposes of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Global Warming Response Act," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The governor's withdrawal from RGGI blatantly disregarded the importance of our participation in RGGI to reducing greenhouse gas emission in our state. A return to the RGGI pact with full participation will get New Jersey back on the right environmental track."
"There are many benefits to our full participation in RGGI," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/ Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "New Jersey would benefit, as other states have, from a carbon dioxide emissions allowance trading program with incentives that will reduce emissions at their sources and the generation and emission of greenhouse gases. Reducing carbon emissions translates to less pollution and cleaner air for future generations."
"Backing out of the RGGI almost eight years ago was not the best path to take for New Jersey," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Funding consumer benefit purposes would have resulted in reduced costs to New Jersey consumers, decreased energy use, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and substantial and tangible benefits to the energy-using business sector. Other states have benefitted from their participation. Why shouldn't New Jersey?"
"New Jersey's participation in RGGI was a manifestation of a larger commitment to a clean energy economy and an effort to stem the tide of climate change," said Gusciora (D-Mercer). "In order for our state to live up to its values regarding the environment, New Jersey must rejoin RGGI."
"Beyond the intrinsic value of participating in RGGI being good for the environment, the efficiency programs put in place to reduce carbon emissions ultimately reduce energy costs, which is helpful for household budgets," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Returning to RGGI only would stand to benefit the state of New Jersey."
"While neighboring states collectively are taking action to limit their carbon footprints and introduce green jobs to their economies, New Jersey is on the sidelines," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "A cleaner, more efficient, more competitive New Jersey is possible with a return to RGGI."
The RGGI-implementing law was enacted to further the purposes of the "Global Warming Response Act" (GWRA). The law partially implements the policies of the GWRA by creating an emissions auction and trading mechanism to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide. Current New Jersey law recognizes the state's participation in RGGI by setting forth the parameters to be followed for allowance auctions, creating the "Global Warming Solutions Fund," and dedicating all proceeds received from the sale, exchange or other conveyance of allowances through a greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading program to the fund.
The measure, which the Assembly approved 46-27-1, now awaits further Senate consideration.