Whelan urges N.J. remain part of RGGI as means toward improved manufacturing, cleaner energy in state

TRENTON – Sen. Jim Whelan, (D-2), Atlantic City said this morning keeping the state part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative can be key to jumpstarting the state’s economy, helping to restore its manufacturing base, and prevent the U.S. from falling further behind the rest of the world in clean energy pursuits.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the 10-state Northeast cooperative to reduce harmful emissions that Gov. Christie announced the state will exit by the end of the year, received more legislative support today, first in the form of testimony before the Assembly Telecommunications Committee.

Whelan told the committee the state is falling behind the rest of the world. He said China spends ten times when the U.S. spends on alternative energy, Brazil is ahead of the U.S. in biofuels, and Germany is ahead of the U.S. in wind, solar, and biofuels.

“We get a lot of our energy from the Middle East,’’ he told the committee.  “Twenty, 30 years from now, we will be getting it from China if something isn’t done.’’

He would like to see the funds generated by RGGI used to spur manufacturing in New Jersey making products such as the fiberglass used in wind turbines.

Southern N.J., Whelan said, used to have a thriving boat manufacturing base, which also relied on fiberglass.

But committee member Assemblyman Joseph Malone, (R-30), Bordentown pressed Whelan on what is driving up the energy costs in the state today and referenced Ocean Spray, which announced its departure from New Jersey recently, in part, due to RGGI and overall energy costs.

“We need to start finding answers as to why it’s too costly for energy consumers to stay here and why they would prefer to go to other states,’’ Malone said.

He said this state has mismanaged its energy policies, and needs to get together with business and industry to find solutions “to make power cheaper.’’

When Christie announced last month New Jersey would no longer be a part of RGGI, he said he did not need legislative approval for the decision, but two key RGGI supporters – Assemblymen Upendra Chivukula and John McKeon – took testimony this morning in support of RGGI and planned to introduce three bills this afternoon to protect the funding sources for clean energy from being diverted to general fund or other uses.

Chivukula, (D-17), Somerset, and McKeon, (D-27), South Orange, were prime sponsors of the legislation that had the state take part in the effort to combat global warming and cap emissions of carbon dioxide.

Testimony was taken from a group of environmental and military experts who have come out in support of RGGI before.

Under RGGI, entities like power plants must purchase pollution allowances. Proceeds from the auction of allowances are intended to be invested in clean energy measures. The measure is intended to provide for a 10 percent reduction of emissions in the region by 2018.

But RGGI opponents argued, among other things, that the surtax on power plants is passed along to small businesses and other consumers, and that governments are selling off the credits at a much-reduced cost from what credit purchasers will likely sell them for in the future. Christie said that there will be no significant secondary market for allowances and that carbon emissions already are below goals set for 2020.

Whelan urges N.J. remain part of RGGI as means toward improved manufacturing, cleaner energy in state