New Jersey Sued Over Greenhouse Gas Initiative Pull-Out

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration was sued by two environmental groups opposing its decision to pull out of a 10-state greenhouse gas-reduction agreement.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey said today they are challenging the withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in a lawsuit filed at an appellate court in New Jersey’s capital city, Trenton.

“Governor Christie unilaterally made his decision to leave RGGI -- without taking any input from stakeholders or the public,” Environment New Jersey staff member Matt Elliott said in a statement today announcing the filing. “His actions are not only bad public policy, but also illegal.”

The 10-state emissions-trading program includes New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. The first-term governor, a Republican, on Nov. 29 told the other states New Jersey would drop out on Jan. 1, according to his website.

“Climate change is real and it’s impacting our state,” Christie said in a May 26, 2011, statement, adding that 90 percent of scientists who have studied the issue have concluded humans play a role in those changes.

“We need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors,” Christie said at that time. “Our analysis of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI reveals that this program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future.”

Groups’ Claims

The environmental groups today said the governor failed to comply with administrative rules requiring that the public receive advance notice and an opportunity to comment on the decision before it is made final.

“Study after study shows RGGI is working just as it was designed,” the groups said, creating 16,000 job-years worth of work within the region and contributing to a 23 percent reduction in harmful pollutants while generating $159 million in local benefits through the sale of pollution permits.

“There was nothing illegal about our withdrawal for RGGI,” a spokesman for the governor, Michael Drewniak, said today in an e-mailed statement.

He called the program “a failed public policy that taxed businesses and residents and left New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage,” and said each member state is permitted to withdraw from the pact at any time and without sanction.

“No one was locked into RGGI,” Drewniak said. “And no, we will not be rejoining RGGI.”

The case is In re Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division (Trenton).

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