Environmentalists yesterday warned New Jersey stands to miss out on future revenue and pollution reduction if it withdraws from the Northeast region's cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse gases.
In Trenton, Environment New Jersey released a report saying the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has added $151 million to the state's economy over three years, and supports the equivalent of 1,800 annual jobs.
Over the next six years, the 10-state program would generate $171 million for clean-energy projects in New Jersey, with funding drawn from polluting companies, with the numbers rising in the future, according to the report.
The findings follow a November report by the Analysis Group of Boston, which found an overall economic gain of $1.6 billion from the program. In particular, the study found that Northeastern states, many of which lack large sources of fossil fuels, kept $756 million in the region by lowering their demand for power originating elsewhere.
But in May, Gov. Chris Christie proclaimed the initiative a "failure" and began steps to remove New Jersey from the regional system. Christie previously diverted $65.2 million in RGGI revenues to fund non-energy spending, but regional reports show the state has benefitted from some pollution reductions.
Accordingly, environmentalists are trying to thwart the Governor's decision and stay in the system. Environment New Jersey issued its report on the eve of an expected Feb. 16 vote in the Assembly to keep the state in the cooperative.
The dispute stems from the evolving political status of "cap-and-trade" systems to pollution. Under them, the owners of power plants that meet goals for reducing pollution can sell credits to companies whose facilities fall short. The idea is that over time, this market rewards lower-polluting companies while providing a mechanism for others to improve their facilities gradually, rather than being hit by higher taxes or penalties.
First applied to fight acid rain in the United States, a cap-and-trade system helped cut sulphur dioxide emissions from plants here by two-thirds between 1990 and 2007. In that era, it was viewed as a pro-business solution to a recognized problem.
Like New Jersey, many other Northeastern states are heavily affected by pollution from beyond their borders but pay high costs for the related energy. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont formed the regional group in 2003. Pennsylvania and the Canadian provinces of Québec, New Brunswick and Ontario do not participate directly, but have acted as observers.