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NJ Court Orders Christie To Revisit RGGI

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N.J. court orders Christie admin to revisit RGGI rules in public

Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A New Jersey court today gave Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration 60 days to strike or revise rules tied to the state’s former participation in a regional cap-and-trade carbon reduction program for power plants.

The ruling, from the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, gave environmental groups a victory in their campaign to return the Garden State to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Christie, a presumed candidate for the GOP nomination to the White House in 2016, ended the state’s participation in 2011 in what was a 10-state Northeast system and has twice vetoed legislation meant to bring New Jersey back into the initiative.

Now reduced to nine states, the cap-and-trade regime is still humming, and environmentalists want New Jersey back in the game.

The attorney who argued on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey called the ruling an important development because, in her view, Christie subverted the law when he declared RGGI moot without channeling the decision through the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“The rules for participating in RGGI were still on the books and Christie told the regulated community to forget it,” said Susan Kraham of Columbia University’s Environmental Law Clinic. “But the DEP has to repeal those regulations before he can do that. That process is a public process.”

The court agreed, siding with Kraham and the environmental groups over the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which represented DEP in court.

Kraham told the court that Christie illegally ended participation in RGGI when DEP staff posted a note on its website stating that regulated entities no longer had to comply with carbon dioxide limits or the mechanics of the trading regime.

Her allies said the ruling may pave the way for New Jersey’s return because the 60-day mandate will include comments from the public and stakeholders that may paint RGGI as successful.

“The Christie administration sidestepped the public process required by law,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, in a statement. “New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming.”

The order may also provide some steam for Democrats pushing a third bill to reinstate RGGI in the state Legislature. Kraham said it could start the ball rolling in that direction because Christie could still be bound by a pair of state global warming laws still on the books that set the table for RGGI participation in the first place.

“There’s a real question about whether based on the language of those statutes the administration can withdraw from RGGI and not do something else in its place,” she said.

The state’s electricity industry was also involved in the case and urged the court to stay any enforcement against power plants until the process at DEP has been resolved. The court agreed with that argument because the regulatory entity told the companies to no longer comply with the rules.

In an email, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said the ruling “is under review in consultation with the client (DEP).”

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