Trenton — The Corzine Administration has unveiled a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that may do little to combat global warming, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The proposed trading program sets emissions caps above current levels and contains numerous complex offsets and loopholes that undercut its effectiveness.
“While we are pleased that New Jersey is finally moving, this is a very timid and tentative step,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the proposed rule is now open for public comment until September 5, 2008. “This plan appears to confuse hot air and greenhouse gases.”
Among the drawbacks of the plan cited by PEER are —
- Caps above Current Levels. “The initial regional cap is 188 million short tons of CO2 per year, which is approximately four percent above annual average regional emissions during the period 2000 through 2004 for electric generating units that will be subject to the program.”
- Economy above Environment. The program was designed to minimize economic impacts and “to provide market signals and regulatory certainty.” As a result, the plan places a $2 per ton price cap in order to hold any increase in current electric rates to less than 1% – about $5.96 per year or 50 cents per month for a typical Garden State household.
- Offsets, Loopholes and Exceptions. The more than 200-page proposed rule is honeycombed with industry-specific escape hatches.
“How can we cut carbon emissions with caps that are higher than current emissions?” asked Wolfe. “This plan says fighting global warming is worth less than 50 cents a month – not even enough for a cup of coffee.”
Even the proposing agency, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, concedes that its trading program will have more rhetorical than practical effect, when it states in the proposal itself:
“By accelerating national action to address climate change, the Department believes that the proposed rules and amendments will result in broader future environmental benefits beyond the direct emissions reduction benefits achieved through the CO2 Budget Trading Program …and will result in a more timely adoption of required Federal measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will reduce environmental impacts to the State and its residents.”
This rule is the state’s contribution to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers nine other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. RGGI only applies to the electric sector and power generators, which account for approximately 30% of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, New Jersey imports about 30% of its power, mostly from coal, but these emissions are not counted by RGGI.
As for addressing the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions, New Jersey is already behind schedule, missing a June 30 deadline for its overall plan for the ambitious goals of the Global Warming Response Act signed by Governor Corzine last year.