New Jersey May Join Climate Group Christie Opted Against

New Jersey would rejoin nine U.S. Northeast states in a market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it musters enough votes to pass legislation that Governor Chris Christie has vetoed twice.

Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra Chivukula will introduce a bill to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, he said in an interview June 26. Christie pulled the state out of the group, known as RGGI, in May 2011, saying it didn’t protect the environment and was an unnecessary tax on consumers.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy and President Barack Obama’s plan to regulate power-plant emissions have increased support for carbon reductions since Christie last vetoed a bill to rejoin the group in July 2012, Chivukula said. The group issues emissions credits that utilities must buy for each ton of carbon they release. The proceeds from auctions are used to invest in renewable energy and efficiency programs.

“New Jersey has seen some of the most severe effects of climate change and the need for action is clearer than ever,” Chivukula, a Democrat, said in an interview today.

Christie may have less success keeping Republican lawmakers aligned in opposition to rejoining the group after Sandy crashed ashore on Oct. 29, destroying beachfront homes and leaving 2.9 million people without power, said Dale Bryk, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York.

“They were very close to overriding his veto the last time,” Bryk said in an interview today. “New Jersey still needs to develop a carbon plan in response to EPA regulations and there’s good reason for legislators to change their mind if they didn’t support it before.”