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Christie – Koch Brothers RGGI Scandal Is Old News

With all the recent media firestorm about the Christie – Koch brothers meetings and cancellation of RGGI, we thought we’d toot our own horn and note that we wrote that story almost 6 months ago – on March 28, 2011:

Christie Bowing To Koch Brothers on RGGI

March 28th, 2011

Governor Christie is getting national press attention for recent controversial remarks in Nutley, suggesting that he was considering unilaterally pulling NJ out of the northeast states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The RGGI was negotiated by former Governor Corzine’s DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, who is now Obama’s US EPA Administrator.

But RGGI was enacted by the legislature, an authorization that makes the program a key electric sector component to meeting the emission reduction goals of NJ’s Global Warming Response Act legislation.

So, Christie again is catering to right wing conservatives, subsidizing major polluters and setting up a battle with the legislature.

According to E&E News, a subscription beltway trade journal (no link available):

Christie suggests he might take N.J. out of regional greenhouse gas control program (3/28/11)

Christa Marshall, E&E reporter

New Jersey’s governor is floating the idea that he might take his state might out of the upper East Coast’s greenhouse gas regulatory program, raising questions about the future of the nation’s only operating cap-and-trade system.

The comments from Republican Gov. Chris Christie also prompted further speculation about the governor’s presidential ambitions and whether he is catering to national voters’ suspicions of emissions caps.

At a town hall last week in Nutley, N.J., Christie expressed concern that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is putting his state at a disadvantage because neighboring Pennsylvania is not a participant. He said he would decide within two months about the state’s role in the program, which has been capping carbon dioxide emissions of utilities in 10 Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states since 2008.

“Is there enough of a benefit to the state to keep it going, or is it too much of a detriment on business? And the thing I’m most concerned about is that it doesn’t seem to be working in the entire region. The value of these credits are getting less and less as we continue to go further and further out, and so the value of the program is becoming less and less,” Christie said in response to a question from the audience.

“And in addition, I’m concerned about the burden that it places on our businesses, making them less competitive with Pennsylvania, because our businesses have greater costs involved than in Pennsylvania. So we are evaluating all that, and within the next two months, I’ll give you a definitive answer on whether we are going to continue it,” he said.

The re-evaluation of RGGI would come as part of a new energy master plan for the state that Christie said he would release in the “next couple of months.”

Of particular significance is that RGGI has been targeted by the billion dollar right wing Koch brothers, an oil and chemical industry giant. The Koch’s are the money behind the TeaParty and the failed attack on California’s global warming legislation known as AB32. NJ’s Global Warming Response Act was modelled on California’s AB32.

Koch group mounts anti-RGGI campaign

The group Americans for Prosperity, which has been running advertisements against RGGI, has an active presence in the state via Internet postings and state meetings. The state director of the group, Steve Lonegan, slammed the “RGGI scheme” at a local event last week, partially because of what he called “speculators” playing the carbon market, according to NorthJersey.com. Americans for Prosperity was co-founded by oil billionaire David Koch.

It is not clear whether New Jersey law allows Christie to unilaterally leave the initiative, said one legal expert. “If he were to try it, there would most certainly be a legal challenge,” said the expert.

According to official RGGI documents, the other participating states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic would “appropriately adjust” allowances bought and sold in the trading market to account for the withdrawal of one state.

In the case of a New Jersey departure, the issue would be more political than technical, at least initially, said Stacy VanDeveer, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.

The program’s cap on emissions is too small at this point for any New Jersey action to matter much in terms of how the trading platform operates, he said. Instead, the action of state representatives during an upcoming regional review of the initiative is more important, he said. New Jersey’s sheer size  “and percentage of emission allowances” means its viewpoint could sway the outcome of things under consideration, such as whether the cap is strengthened, he said.

It also takes “momentum away” from the program at a time when climate legislation is defunct on Capitol Hill, he said. The initiative is also facing a challenge in New Hampshire, where Republicans have moved a bill through one chamber of the Legislature to exit the regional plan.

And once again, the Christie Administration’s signals are crossed.

It looks like DEP is doing another Schundler, by making press statements directly at odds with the Governor’s statements. Or perhaps DEP is providing cover for the Governor:

Spokespeople in the governor’s office and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied there was any movement to leave the program.

“At the moment, we’re not going anywhere,” said Lawrence Ragonese, a spokesman for the Department. A Christie official said it would “be crossing a bridge we not have come to” to speculate about how the state procedurally would leave the greenhouse gas initiative.

At the moment, I think they’re full of crap.

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  1. Pat
    March 28th, 2011 at 13:28 | #1

    Corzine is not looking so bad.

  2. March 28th, 2011 at 13:54 | #2

    Hi Pat – I play it straight on this issues, and was a Corzine/Jackson critic, but obviously, compared to Christie, he looks good.

    You should reach out to NJEF, who endorsed Christie, and ask them to revoke that endorsement. It embarrasses and hurts us all.

  3. March 29th, 2011 at 09:39 | #3

    How can a governor pull an entire state out of a greenhouse gas initiative? Aren’t there any public hearings? Anyone?

    If I could afford to leave NJ, I would.

  4. March 29th, 2011 at 12:39 | #4

    @Warren Bobrow

    I agree Warren, that would seem to be an abuse of power. As I wrote, the original RGGI agreement was negotiated by the Executive Branch but adopted into law by the Legislature.

    But Christie has a very large view of his Executive power, and the Democrats who control the legislature have lacked a spine – for the most part – to stand up to those powers.

    Most recently, Dems have folded in taking on the Governor on his powers at the DRBC, where he is supporting the DRBC prposed rules.

    They also failed to take on teh Gov. in mandating a TMDL for Barnegat Bay.

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