Washington, DC — A new plan for reducing greenhouses gases unveiled last week by the State of New Jersey raises far more questions than it resolves, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Since the report was prepared under the supervision of the designated nominee for the next Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan may foreshadow how the Obama administration addresses the challenge of global warming.
New Jersey released its “Draft Global Warming Response Act Recommendation Report” on the very day that President-elect Obama officially named Lisa Jackson, the former top state environmental official, as his pick to head EPA. This plan is supposed to lay out a strategy for how New Jersey will achieve targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
This plan is nearly six months overdue, as it was required by law to have been finished this past June 30th. Despite that extra time, the plan does not spell out how it will meet its goals and appears to be based on puzzling assumptions such as –
- Significant reliance on carbon sequestration, especially for coal-burning power-plants, a process that former Vice President Gore and his “This Is Reality” campaign conclude “has yet to be demonstrated in the form of commercial-scale, fully integrated projects”;
- A substantial but unspecified increase in nuclear power without any explanation of how much or how it will be financed; and
- Quickly transforming New Jersey from an energy importer (currently nearly a third of the state’s power comes from out-of-state coal-generated electricity) into a substantial energy exporter. Last week, however, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report predicting that New Jersey and other Northeastern states will become even more coal-dependent under current plans.
“This effort is less a coherent strategy than a compendium of every possible approach, glued together with some tables and graphs,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has been critical of Jackson’s record in New Jersey on behalf of staff who had worked directly with her there. “When compared to the work being done in California, it seems that New Jersey is still at a pre-school level.”
One significant shortcoming in New Jersey has been the failure by the state Department of Environmental Protection under Jackson to directly regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant, despite the fact that DEP has had authority to do so since 2005. This is the same issue that the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Massachusetts v. EPA case, at the national level.
“The caps proposed under Jackson are well above current emission levels, so it is unclear how the state program can reasonably be expected to reduce greenhouse gases in the near term,” Ruch added, noting that EPA and Jackson may be bypassed on developing climate strategy by the new White House office to be run by Carol Browner. This would leave Jackson to deal with more conventional pollution problems where her record has drawn criticism, although her defenders pointing to her work on climate change as her key qualification. “Reading this plan, it is hard to justify putting Lisa Jackson in charge of our nation’s response to global warming.”