State Greenhouse Gas Action Prompts Public Comment Period, Hearings in Trenton Next Month

Dec 19, 2018

The state Department of Environmental Protection earlier this week filed two proposed rules dealing with climate change and sea level rise expected to put New Jersey in a leadership role as it prepares to re-enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

In doing so, the state opened a public comment period that includes two hearings slated for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Jan. 25 at DEP headquarters in Trenton. Written comments are being accepted until the close of business Feb. 15. The DEP encourages comments to be submitted electronically to www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments. Each comment should be identified by the applicable New Jersey Administrative Code citation, with the commenter’s name and affiliation following the comment.

“Climate change and sea level rise affect every one of us,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Dec. 17 statement. “From Superstorm Sandy to the powerful nor’easters and devastating flooding this year, it is imperative that New Jersey reclaim its leadership role in fighting back. Today’s action is an important first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy and keeping us on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 for the benefit of all New Jerseyans.”

RGGI is the nation’s first multi-state, market-based cap-and-trade program designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. Participants allot, grant and transfer carbon allowances through an auction process as an annual carbon-dioxide cap declines. This bolsters more market efficiencies, growth of renewable energy, and technological improvements for power plants. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont are part of the program. Virginia is planning to join RGGI.

New Jersey was a charter member of 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 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 RGGI again. Through a combination of RGGI’s required carbon dioxide reductions and achieving Murphy’s renewable energy goals, the DEP projects he state’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 11.5 million tons by 2030.

“New Jersey already has one of the cleanest fossil fuel electric generation portfolios in the country. Rejoining RGGI will provide impetus for further carbon dioxide reductions in the state’s energy sector,” said Paul Baldauf, the DEP’s assistant commissioner for air quality, energy and sustainability.

The other rule proposal establishes the framework for how the state will spend proceeds from RGGI carbon dioxide allowance auctions, with an emphasis on projects that will benefit disproportionately burdened communities.

“It’s good news this is finally moving forward. It can't happen fast enough. We’re glad DEP’s adding environmental justice as a criterion to determine spending priorities. In fact, it should be the top priority and we will be looking for guarantees the funds are not raided and focus on achieving mandatory reductions, community controlled/built solutions, and rate relief in environmental justice communities,” Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action’s N.J. state director, said.  G.G.S.

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