Last summer, without consulting the legislature, following what he hoped would be a secret meeting with the notorious Koch Brothers climate change deniers, Governor Christie abruptly announced that he was withdrawing New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
RGGI is a cap-and-trade initiative started by New York Republican Governor George Pataki in 2003, with participation from several states in the Northeast. Its goal is to reduce the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere by imposing a small tax on carbon emissions. Polluters can purchase offsets at quarterly auctions, which would bring money into state coffers. That money is supposed to go to conservation and energy efficiency programs.
In response to the Governor’s foolish and unilateral action, Senators Sweeney and Smith have introduced a bill (S1322) which requires New Jersey to participate in RGGI.
Today, Senator Smith chaired the Environment and Energy Committee hearing, receiving testimony from advocates on both sides of the issue.
There is a difference between New Jersey and some of the more backward states that cater to the Rick Santorums of the world. At least in today’s testimony, there were no witnesses who opposed the bill on the basis of climate change denial. Those opposing RGGI put forth what seem to be fallacious economic arguments on how RGGI will raise electric rates. The arguments were quickly shot down by RGGI advocates.
Of particular interest was the testimony of a small businessman from Princeton who pointed out how RGGI actually creates jobs in the state – jobs that are desperately needed as our unemployment rate exceeds the national average.
The bill passed the Senate committee unanimously, including the vote of the lone Republican present, Senator Kip Bateman. Once it passes the full legislature, we’ll wait to see if the Governor continues to put his national political ambitions ahead of the health of New Jerseyans and vetoes the bill, or if he does what is right and signs it.
Testimony video below the fold…