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NJ Court: Christie Broke the Law When He Dropped Power Plant Rules

Dale Bryk

Posted March 25, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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Good news for New Jersey’s air quality, resiliency to climate change, and local economy today – a court told Governor Christie that he doesn’t get to play by his own rules.

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton found that Governor Christie’s New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection broke the law when it excused power plants from complying with regulations limiting dangerous climate-changing pollution in the state. By law, DEP was required to let the public comment on proposed regulatory changes like this before taking action.

This 2011 move effectively pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program that has proved itself to be a pollution-cutting, economy-boosting powerhouse in the remaining nine participating states.

RGGI—designed by a bipartisan group of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors to cut carbon pollution, create new jobs, save consumers money on energy, and support state and regional economic development all at the same time—is working exactly as planned. So much so, in fact, that the Governor should take a closer look at RGGI and consider rejoining the program. 

The facts speak for themselves—since RGGI took effect in 2009, it has:

As you can see, it has become clear that New Jersey has been missing out since it left a couple years ago.

And, in the near future, the state will have to do something about its dirty power plants regardless of the how DEP responds to this court decision. That’s because the U.S. EPA is expected to release new federal standards for reducing pollution at existing power plants in all 50 states in just a few months. The nine remaining states have asked EPA to let RGGI work as a compliance mechanism for the new federal rules—and there’s a very good chance that EPA will approve. New Jersey still has the option to do the same, and would be wise to take it.

After all, New Jerseyans want action on climate change. Twice, both houses of the state legislature have voted to compel the state to rejoin RGGI. And the program’s many boosters in the legislature are about to give it another try. Moreover, recent polling shows that 83 percent of Garden Staters support cutting carbon pollution from power plants.  

After suffering through Hurricane Sandy a little over a year ago, New Jerseyans know we must not only better prepare ourselves for future storms, but fight extreme weather at its source: carbon pollution. We hope the Governor will take this opportunity to give this highly effective and popular program another look—and start delivering the clean air, climate change-fighting and economic benefits that come with it to the Garden State.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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