Environment N.J. report seeks to quantify consequences of leaving RGGI

TRENTON – A new environmental report claims New Jersey is missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars that could create more green energy jobs, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and improve clean energy efforts.

A report released today by Environment N.J. claims that the governor’s decision last year to pull the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was based on misinformation that RGGI hurt the economy and was failing in its green goals.

A bill to recommit New Jersey to RGGI cleared an Assembly committee earlier this month.  However, when Gov. Chris Christie pulled the state from RGGI he declared he needed no legislative approval, and he vetoed a similar pro-RGGI bill last summer.

At the time Christie pulled the state from RGGI, he said he believed that global warming is a real concern, but as late as November he said the market RGGI helped create is collapsing, and that the utility bill tax it imposes places New Jersey at a disadvantage.

But this report issued by the environmental advocacy group says that it quantifies RGGI’s value and should provide evidence that the state needs to rejoin the effort.

Among other things, the report claims that:

* If nothing had changed between now and 2018, then approximately $171 million in revenue would have been available for clean energy programs.

* The state’s ongoing investment in clean energy programs through RGGI will help the state avoid 127,000 metric tons of global warming pollution a year, or the equivalent of 24,300 passenger vehicles.

* During the three years that the state was a partner in RGGI, it led to 1,800 jobs being created.

* The average resident is seeing a savings of $25 on their electric bill and the average business is seeing a savings of $181, and overall RGGI has helped save $151 million after three years.

* If New Jersey rejoined RGGI the state could see anywhere from $340 million to $680 million in clean energy money.  Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey said the report took into consideration the wild potential fluctuations of the prices at which carbon allowances might trade over the coming years.

“We urge the governor and the Legislature to get back in the program and work with neighboring states to make it stronger,” said Elliott.

And Bruce Mizrach, associate professor of economics at Rutgers University, said during a press conference to release the report that RGGI was precedent-setting, the first attempt in the Northeast to put a price on carbon pollution.

“It could have been a major step in achieving national goals,” he said.

He and environmentalists emphasized that RGGI originated under the first President Bush, has long been a bipartisan effort, but they said they fear that Christie has decided to play to far-right conservatives nationally at the expense of state residents.  

Exiting RGGI, they said, put New Jersey at a disadvantage in the solar energy market, and contributed to falling prices and jobs moving to other states.

Elliott said that by not being a RGGI member, New Jersey will miss out on $10 million in clean energy funding that comes out of the next quarterly auction on March 14.

Previous coverage:

Pro-RGGI bill advances


Environment N.J. report seeks to quantify consequences of leaving RGGI