NJ Governor Sued for Abandoning Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection failed to follow legal due process and safeguard the economic and health interests of New Jersey citizens when pulling the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a 10-state compact that is cutting harmful air pollution from power plants and shifting investments to clean energy, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environment New Jersey.
“RGGI offers Garden State residents enormously popular benefits—cleaner air, healthier kids, homegrown jobs, lower energy bills and more money for the state,” said NRDC senior attorney Luis Martinez. “It’s no surprise that a program like this has strong support in the statehouse and among New Jersey residents. Governor Christie should heed their call and stick with the program, rather than listen to out-of-state interests in the dirty fuel industry that are calling for him to drop out.”
“Governor Christie unilaterally made his decision to leave RGGI—without taking any input from stakeholders or the public,” said Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey. “As we contend today, his actions are not only bad public policy, but also illegal. The people of New Jersey have spoken out overwhelmingly in support of RGGI—to date, over 50,000 New Jerseyans have called or written their elected officials urging them to stand up for RGGI . And the Legislature has passed a series of measures affirming their support of the program. And yet, the governor refuses to listen, and insists on ignoring the people and their elected representatives. We won’t stand by and let this happen.”
The groups filed the lawsuit today in the Superior Court, Appellate Division in Trenton against the New Jersey DEP for effectively dissolving the program, which has strong support from the public and the state legislature, without the open discussion that state law requires. The New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act requires the Governor and his administration to provide notice of their intention to repeal a regulation like this, as well as give the public reasonable opportunity to comment before finally deciding whether or not to move forward with a repeal. Given this, the groups contend that the program is still law, and the administration, and New Jersey utilities, must abide by it.
In May 2011, Governor Christie announced an end to New Jersey’s participation in RGGI. The following week the state DEP Commissioner declared the state’s withdrawal from initiative would be effective at the end of the calendar year. The governor’s actions, closely followed by DEP’s, effectively repealed the state’s participation in the program, while ignoring the requirements of the state’s Administrative Procedure Act to provide New Jersey residents and businesses with an opportunity to shape the Administration’s position by publicly describing the program’s benefits and countering the claims of oil industry-funded opponents.
In the past year, the state legislature has twice voted to keep New Jersey participating in RGGI. The first bill that passed was vetoed by the governor last summer. The second bill was passed again last month and is currently on Governor Christie’s desk.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a program between 10 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that is reducing harmful air pollution from power plants, making polluters pay for their emissions, and investing those payments in clean energy projects that grow the economy and further cut fossil fuel dependence. In doing so, it is generating revenue for the state, lowering energy costs for consumers, and creating jobs in the energy efficiency and clean energy sectors that can’t be shipped overseas. It achieves these goals by ensuring that residents send less of the money they pay for electricity out of their states to import coal and other fossil fuels. Instead, more of it goes back into their local communities to make homes, offices and factories more energy efficient, and invest in solar and wind energy.
Study after study shows RGGI is working just as it was designed. Region-wide, it has created 16,000 job-years’ worth of work (one job year is one year’s worth of work). It has generated more than $1.6 billion of economic activity, and has helped achieve a 23 percent reduction in harmful air pollution that inflames cardiovascular health problems in adults and children and contributes to climate change.
During New Jersey’s participation in RGGI, the sale of pollution permits has generated $159 million in local benefits, including $125 million for the state to invest in local, job-creating energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. As a result, it created 1,800 job-years worth of work.
These numbers could have been even more impressive—as they were in other participating states—had Gov. Christie not diverted more than half of those funds to plug budget holes. A recent report by Environment New Jersey shows that, by staying in RGGI and working with participating states to further improve the program, New Jersey could realize up to $680 million in additional revenue for clean energy projects.
New Jersey voters strongly support RGGI. A poll conducted for NRDC last year showed that the large majority of voters supported the goals of the program.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.