RGGI withdrawal means reliance on general fund for certain programs

TRENTON – The pullout from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will require the Department of Environmental Protection to use more general funds to fund various programs.

In addition, a number of programs will have a portion of their funds diverted to the general fund, or just simply reduced, with fewer funds going toward such programs as pollution control and spill prevention.  

Participation in RGGI allowed the state to impose a surcharge on residents and companies that emit greenhouse gases, which would go into the Global Warming Solutions Fund. Last year, some $10 million went into that fund.

However, Gov. Chris Christie decided last year that New Jersey would no longer participate in RGGI, a compact of several Northeastern states, essentially putting an end to that source of revenue.  

One of the programs that fund helped support was the Forest Resource Management Fund. This program provides services such as technical support, disease control and insect control to help preserve forests in the state.

The 2013 budget calls for increasing funding for the forestry management program, from $6.4 million to $8.6 million. The millions of dollars the Global Warming Solutions Fund helped last year are no longer available this year.

The funds from the Global Warming Solutions Fund would have also gone toward replanting trees on the N.J. Turnpike that were removed to make way for a major widening project, according to an analysis by the Office of Legislative Services.

Instead of having the Global Warming Solutions Fund to cover that expenditure, the funds will come from dipping into the Hazardous Discharge Site Cleanup Fund.

Despite no longer having that RGGI funding, DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said the department will continue to fund key programs and accomplish its goals through the general fund.   

“We have gotten rid of a bureaucracy and a tax on consumers and businesses,” he said.

The proposed Department of Environmental Protection budget for fiscal year 2013 calls for $366 million in state funds, about $26 million more than the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget also shows the debt service payments will increase nearly threefold, from $6.8 million to more than $19.3 million as part of a major debt restructuring plan done by the Treasury Department that helped save money.

Other program funds will also be diverted. They include:

*A $10 million reduction from the Sanitary Landfill Facility Contingency Fund;

*A $590,000 cut from the air Pollution Prevention Fund; and

*A $394,000 cut to the Worker and Community Right to Know Act.  

Regarding the first program, Ragonese said it tended to be overly funded. Last year, only $500,000 of sanitary landfill funds were used, he said.

“We haven’t used most of that money,” Ragonese said.

In the other two programs, cost savings were achieved largely through automation of services, and employees who worked for those programs were reassigned, Ragonese said.

 

 

RGGI withdrawal means reliance on general fund for certain programs