Christie: ‘RGGI will collapse up and down the Eastern Seaboard’

PRINCETON – The talk on Tuesday afternoon at the Princeton Library was advertised as a discussion between Gov. Chris Christie and elected officials from Princeton Borough and Princeton Township about the consolidation of the two municipalities, after a referendum passed this month.

But it didn’t take long for the “conversation” to morph into another town hall meeting where Gov. Chris Christie is at his most animated.

As is customary, he took questions from several residents on a wide array of subjects.

On the state’s pullout from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI):

Christie called RGGI a failure, saying that the market it helped to create is collapsing.

He said the utility bill tax that it imposes puts New Jersey at a regional disadvantage. Pennsylvania, he said, doesn’t participate in RGGI. He predicted RGGI “will collapse up and down the eastern seaboard.”

On the long periods of power outages following weather events like Hurricane Irene and the freak October snowstorm:

Gov. Christie said the goal for the state in the long term is to generate as much of its own electricity as it can, instead of buying much of it from states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. That is why, he said, he supports the creation of new natural gas-fired power plants.

He added that much of the power outages stemmed from fallen trees that knocked down power lines. Because of that, he said, local shade tree commissions may want to be more judicious with their tree placement, and consider whether the trees need to be further pruned so they don’t interfere with overhead wires.

The removal of trees by linemen, he said, is an “arduous, time-consuming job.”

He said the Board of Public Utilities will hold “intensive” public hearings to get to the root of the problem.

Placing the overhead wires underground, he said, is cost prohibitive, about $1 million per mile.

On the government’s role in the income disparity that has become a big issue in the Occupy protests: Christie said federal policies that drove out many middle class, manufacturing jobs to other countries may be a reason for it.

He said the Occupy protests, along with the Tea Party movement, are both driven highly by “emotion” but each wants diametrically opposed solutions.

On raising taxes for wealthy individuals: “It seems to me it’s just punitive.” He said in New Jersey, 1 percent of the residents pay 41 percent of the state income taxes.

On “fracking,” or the hydraulic fracturing process of gas exploration: Christie said he doesn’t have a position on it yet. But he said his decision on it will be based on science as opposed to emotion. He vetoed the Democrat-backed five-year moratorium on fracking, but signed a one-year moratorium instead.

A vote that had been scheduled for Monday by the Delaware River Basin Commission on lifting the moratorium was postponed, with no makeup date scheduled.

Christie: ‘RGGI will collapse up and down the Eastern Seaboard’