WASHINGTON Jan 6 An appellate court will hear
arguments on Wednesday on whether Governor Chris Christie
illegally withdrew New Jersey from a regional trading scheme
aimed at cutting carbon emissions, raising hopes among
environmental groups that the state might be forced to rejoin.
A three-judge panel in Trenton will hear oral arguments from
green groups Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources
Defense Council that Christie did not follow proper
administrative procedures when he pulled the state out of the
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) at the end of 2011.
Christie, a Republican often mentioned as a possible
presidential candidate, claimed the RGGI was costing rate payers
too much and did not deliver environmental benefits to New
The then-10-state program, which was created by Republican
and Democratic governors of the northeast and mid-Atlantic in
the early 2000s, requires power plants to reduce their carbon
emissions by buying and selling emission permits.
The nine current RGGI states are calling for the federal
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the RGGI program as
a template for other states to comply with rules expected to be
proposed this summer that would curb carbon from existing power
plants, the largest domestic source of emissions.
New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
said in its court filings that it followed procedure because it
informed the public of "the effect of New Jersey's withdrawal
from RGGI" on its website.
Environmental groups, however, said that simply posting a
statement declaring an end to the rules was not in compliance
with state law. Such moves, they argue, require a public comment
Dale Bryk, director of the air and energy program for the
NRDC, said now is a perfect time for New Jersey to re-enter the
RGGI, with federal rules are on the way and citizens demanding
action in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in late 2012, which
caused billions of dollars of damage in the state.
"The reality is, the program (RGGI) has continued to get
stronger. The governor increasingly is being shown to be out of
step with New Jersey and the greater northeastern U.S.," she
Bryk said that residents of New Hampshire, another RGGI
member, backed the program when the state legislature voted to
withdraw from RGGI in 2011.
States that still participate in RGGI say the program has
been a major boon to their economies. The program's quarterly
carbon emission permit auctions have netted $2.4 billion to the
RGGI region since the end of 2008.
State lawmakers have been trying to pass legislation that
would enable New Jersey to re-enter RGGI. The proposals have
majority support, but not enough backing to override the
governor's expected veto.