Trenton — The state of New Jersey will be on the sidelines watching the historic first auction of greenhouse gas pollution allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI scheduled for this Thursday, September 25, 2008. New Jersey will also likely miss the next auction, slated for this December, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
New Jersey cannot participate in the auction because the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has yet to adopt regulations to implement the much touted and closely watched pollution trading program.
New Jersey’s RGGI rule proposal recently closed its public comment period on September 5, 2008 and adoption of final rules is not expected for several months.
Delays also means that New Jersey will miss an opportunity to generate the $40 to $70 million from auction proceeds authorized by RGGI implementing legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Corzine.
On June 30th, the DEP missed another major milestone by failing to release the comprehensive emissions reduction plan mandated by the highly touted Global Warming Response Act (GWRA). This required plan has still not been unveiled. These delays raise questions about the commitment and ability of the Corzine administration to the steep greenhouse gas emission reductions promised under the GWRA.
“ New Jersey cannot claim to be a leader in the race against global warming when it does not even show up at the starting gate,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “The Governor’s bold rhetoric has been followed thus far by timidity and tardiness.”
RGGI is a regional compact among ten Northeast states. It is a market based “cap and trade” system to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. This regional auction, the first in the United States, is being closely watched and will affect Congressional deliberations on how to fashion a national global warming strategy.
PEER has criticized the RGGI program because, by design, it can not meet its publicly stated emission reduction goal. The RGGI agreement does not address greenhouse gas emissions from out-of-state coal power (roughly 30% of New Jersey’s electric consumption) and would allow a nearly 10% increase in current instate power sector emissions. Moreover, market-driven cap and trade systems have a history of vulnerability to manipulation and enforcement problems.
“Given the current national financial crisis which was fueled by unregulated financial schemes, perhaps policy-makers should rethink the wisdom and effectiveness of so called ‘market based solutions,’” added Wolfe, noting that the New Jersey RGGI law provides subsidies to major polluters and does little to directly bring about deep emissions reductions. “As we are seeing, the market alone is no magic elixir, especially for the type of fundamental restructuring needed to meet the challenge of global warming.”
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability