TRENTON – Seeking to return New Jersey to a multi-state program that reduces carbon emissions in the Northeast, a state Senate committee on Thursday endorsed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak that would seek voter approval to put the state back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative and coordinated program that reduces airborne carbon dioxide.
Gov. Chris Christie removed New Jersey from RGGI and has opposed efforts by the Legislature to rejoin the nine other states in the program.
“The best way to make the air we breathe cleaner and healthier is to work with other states in the region to reduce the amount of pollutants that are put there,” said Lesniak. “We share the air we breathe with other states so it makes good sense to join with them to ratchet down emissions. The governor refuses so we should ask the voters to decide.”
“Five years ago, we passed legislation declaring the state’s priority in limiting our carbon footprint and reducing our reliance on foreign oil. Joining Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont in RGGI, we took a collective step in capping and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” said state Sen. Environment and Energy Committee Chairman Bob Smith (D-Middlesex).
“By combining our efforts and pooling resources with other Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, we could have brought significant environmental change to our communities. Our energy and economic futures in New Jersey are tied to harnessing the power and promise of solar and off-shore wind energy technologies. RGGI was the means to make an investment in renewable energy projects and new jobs a reality,” said Smith.
“Unfortunately, the Governor is more concerned with the ‘political atmosphere’ in other states as he looks to run for president than he is about the state’s natural resources,” said Lesniak. “This is an environmental issue that has an impact on public health.”
The regional agreement provides incentives to power companies to cut down on carbon emissions, allowing them to buy, sell and trade “allowances,” or limits on the volume of pollutants.
The proposed constitutional amendment, SCR-162, was merged with a companion bill, SCR-146, which would have the voters also approve the dedication of revenue to clean energy programs. The combined bills, SCR-162, were then voted out of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee four to one.
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