Bill requiring state’s participation in RGGI released from committee

TRENTON – After hearing testimony before a standing room only crowd, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee unanimously released S1322, a bill that requires the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, on Monday morning.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, and Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), of Piscataway, who is also the chair of the committee, are the co-sponsors of the legislation.

Gov. Chris Christie announced the state would pull out of RGGI last May, and the withdrawal became effective on Jan. 1. Christie said last May that the program did not work.

RGGI is a market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is a cooperative effort among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

States participating in RGGI established a regional cap on CO2 emissions from the power sector and are requiring power plants to possess a tradable CO2 allowance for each ton of CO2 they emit, according to the RGGI.

S1322 would set forth parameters to be followed for allowance auctions, create the Global Warming Solutions Fund, and statutorily dedicate all the proceeds received from the sale, exchange or other conveyance of allowances through a greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading program to the fund.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, the executive director of Highland Park-based GreenFaith, touted New Jersey’s involvement in RGGI as a way to create jobs, save money and create other economic benefits for the state.

But Sara Bluhm of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association opposed the bill.

“Our neighbors next door haven’t been participating but we’re still getting the dirty air from Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Bluhm said. “Other power plants within our grid are not (a part of) RGGI. We are never able to account for the leakage factor.”

Many environmental groups, including the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, testified in favor of the bill, touting economic and environmental benefits of joining RGGI.

Previous efforts to keep the state in RGGI have not proven successful.

Bill requiring state’s participation in RGGI released from committee