By a vote of 23-15, the New Jersey Senate on May 25 passed a bill that would require New Jersey to re-enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The bill, A4701/S3059, has been approved by both houses of the New Jersey Legislature and now goes to Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
In mid-2011, Christie announced that New Jersey would leave the RGGI program by the end of that year because the state's involvement in the RGGI had not substantially lowered emissions and had left a negative impact on economic growth.
The RGGI participating states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — use a market-based cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from regional power plants, selling nearly all emissions allowances through auctions and investing proceeds in energy efficiency projects in the residential, commercial and municipal sectors.
"We need to undo Governor Christie's mistake and move the state forward. If Governor Christie does not sign this important bill and get New Jersey back into RGGI, we will need the Legislature to overturn that decision or wait for the next Governor," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a May 25 news release.
"Rejoining RGGI is the first step in fighting climate change in New Jersey. We need to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and focus on solar and wind power," Tittel added. "We can work with other states to make RGGI stronger and improve air quality for the entire region."
In August 2015, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection formally repealed the state's CO2 budget trading rules that allowed for the state's previous participation in the RGGI.
Despite resistance from environmental groups, the New Jersey DEP first published the rulemaking designed to formally withdraw the state from the RGGI program in July 2014 following a March 2014 decision from the New Jersey Superior Court that found that Christie and the DEP illegally withdrew the state from the RGGI. The court found that the governor and the DEP failed to "follow legal due process and safeguard the economic and health interests of New Jersey citizens." To comply with the court's ruling, the DEP issued the proposal to repeal the CO2 budget trading rules since they were no longer applicable due to the state's withdrawal from the RGGI.
Christie's second and final term ends in January 2018.