McKeon: Battle for RGGI not over

TRENTON – Assemblyman John McKeon is not giving up the fight to keep New Jersey in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

McKeon, (D-27), West Orange, said over the weekend he still had hopes of pushing for an attempt to override the governor’s veto last week of a bill that would have kept the state in RGGI.

RGGI is a Northeast multistate cooperative that seeks to increase use of solar energy, but when he pulled the state out last year, Gov. Chris Christie said that RGGI and the utility bill fees it has created put New Jersey at a disadvantage.

Christie did sign a solar energy bill last week that seeks to stabilize costs while promoting more solar energy installations.

But McKeon – who said RGGI and the bill that became law last week are not mutually exclusive – believes he has environmental evidence increasingly on his side.

“Last year was the worst weather year in a long time,’’ said McKeon, citing reports that said more Americans were affected by weather-related disasters last year than in any year since 2004, and adding that New Jersey’s coastline has seen some of the more dramatic increases in rising sea levels.

In addition, according to McKeon, climate-change experts say eight of the hottest summers in average temperature occurred in the last decade.

“There are no magic bullets here,’’ he said, indicating the state needs to use every means available to advance the cause of clean energy.

He recognizes that usually in the past, “Economic issues have trumped concerns for the environment.’’

As a result, McKeon said he wants to target the economic benefits of clean energy, that it produces thousands of jobs.

In addition, he said clean energy helps rescue tourism dollars by preventing damage, for example, to fragile barrier islands.

But he recognizes there are political winds at play as well.

Republicans voted in the past for RGGI, but they are in lock-step with the governor’s marching orders these days, according to McKeon, so attempting to call for a veto override is also a matter of timing.

“I continue to read the tea leaves as to when the best time might be,’’ he said. “Maybe things change after August,’’ he suggested, after the GOP national convention is over.

But McKeon, who is realistic about the political and economic hurdles in trying to keep New Jersey in RGGI, also believes he is realistic about the fact that climate change is real and already leaving its mark on the state.

  McKeon: Battle for RGGI not over