FULFILLING HIS PLEDGE TO “restore New Jersey to a national leadership role in the fight against climate change and sea-level rise,” Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has formally proposed two rules that will steer New Jersey’s re-entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The RGGI is made up of Mid-Atlantic and New England states working to reduce carbon dioxide gas emissions from the energy sector through a cap-and-trade auction process that encourages more market efficiencies, invests in renewable energy and improves power plant technology. The RGGI’s members are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Virginia is planning to join the RGGI.
Returning New Jersey to the RGGI has been a priority for Gov. Murphy since the outset of his administration. In January, the governor issued Executive Order 7 directing the state to rejoin the RGGI and develop a program that implements solutions that benefit communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
New Jersey was a charter member of the RGGI and was a key member of the effort until the state’s withdrawal in 2012 under the Christie administration.
One of the proposed rules establishes the mechanisms for rejoining the RGGI and sets the initial carbon dioxide cap for the state’s electricity generation sector at 18 million tons in 2020, when the state will officially begin participating in the RGGI again. Through a combination of the RGGI’s required carbon dioxide reductions and achieving Gov. Murphy’s aggressive renewable energy goals, the NJDEP projects that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 11.5 million tons by 2030.
The other rule proposal establishes the framework for how the state will spend proceeds from the RGGI carbon dioxide allowance auctions, with an emphasis on projects that will benefit disproportionately burdened communities.
NJDEP Commissioner Opposes Federal Roll Back of Water Rule Protections
A Trump administration proposal to severely limit the number of wetlands and waterways protected by the federal Clean Water Act would penalize states that prioritize clean water and public health, says NJDEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.
“The Trump administration’s proposal to roll back federal rules on clean water abandons our moral obligation to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren,” she explains. “It creates a ‘race to the bottom,’ encouraging states to loosen their own regulations and penalizing those that truly protect their residents and public health.”
Commissioner McCabe says that “New Jersey is committed to protecting its water resources. Water that is clean and safe is a critical natural resource for everything in our state and our country. Instead of creating a jigsaw puzzle of what is protected, we need strong leadership that will serve our communities by safeguarding all the water that flows through them.”
The proposal calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to repeal the 2015 rule defining the waters of the United States and revert to a definition from 1986. The key difference is that the 2015 rule provides sufficient protection to wetlands as “waters of the United States.” The 1986 rule does not. With reduced protections in border states such as New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey could likely experience more flooding and reduced water quality downstream.