By David Leestma
Following last week's Democratic victory for Ralph Northam in Virginia's gubernatorial race, regulators in the state will seek approval to join the East Coast's regional carbon-trading market, the RGGI.
The regulators' draft proposal, released on election night, would cap carbon emissions from Virginia's electricity sector by 2020 and reduce them by 30 percent over the coming decade. To accomplish this, Virginia would halt carbon emissions at either 33 million or 34 million tons per year and cut emissions by three percent each year, in accordance with RGGI commitments made in August.
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Nine Republican and Democratic Northeast and Mid-Atlantic governors committed to further cut pollution Wednesday through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The proposed changes to the RGGI program, reached after more than 20 months of negotiations, will include extending the pollution cap to 2030 with a 30 percent reduction from 2020 levels.
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided in 2011 that power plants no longer had to comply with previously established pollution limits.
By posting an online notice saying as much, Christie essentially ended his state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). He also broke the law, according to a ruling issued Tuesday morning.
The appellate division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled in favor of Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a lawsuit the organizations brought against the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding the governor's excuse of climate-changing pollution. Withdrawing from the RGGI allowed power plants to operate without accountability, the organizations argued. Now, Christie's administration has 60 days to implement a public process for any changes he wants to make to climate change pollution rules.
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“The Christie Administration sidestepped the public process required by law,” Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said in a joint statement. “New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming. We hope that today’s ruling will help their voices be heard.”
The RGGI is a nine-state program with East Coast member states that have been reducing emissions at power plants for the past five years. Now that Christie needs to find a solution in the next two months, Environment New Jersey and the NRDC think a return to the consortium might make the most sense.
Reducing climate change pollution by a collective 30 percent since 2009, the groups think RGGI could be a good compliance model for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when it proposes federal emissions standards for existing power plants this summer.
“Governor Christie’s fears can be put to rest,” said Travis Madsen, senior program manager for Environment America. “The evidence is clear: RGGI works.”