New Jersey RGGI membership clash likely headed back to court after DEP snubs Assembly

Published 10:22 on February 3, 2016  /  Last updated at 10:22 on February 3, 2016  /  Americas, US  /  No Comments

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will not respond to the State Assembly’s December resolution that the exit from RGGI was unlawful, meaning the issue is likely to go back to court.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will not respond to the State Assembly’s December resolution that the exit from RGGI was unlawful, meaning the issue is likely to go back to court.

The Assembly late last year voted 46-32 in favour of a resolution stating that the DEP acted against the intention of state law in 2014 when it repealed legislation that included the state in the northeastern US’ cap-and-trade scheme.

The DEP now has the right to withdraw or amend the repeal, but the agency, which ultimately takes orders from Governor Chris Christie, has decided it will not send a formal response to the legislature at all.

“New Jersey, thanks to policy decisions, has lower carbon emissions than most of the states that are in the coalition. The carbon-trading rules were also officially repealed. So we do not intend to respond,” DEP spokesperson Bob Considine told news website NJ Spotlight.

“I’m saddened to see Gov. Christie once again allow New Jersey to fall from a leader in responding to climate change to, at best, playing catch up and, at worst, purposefully allowing us to fall behind the curve,’’ said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex).

“Instead of responding to the legislature as required by law, the governor has allowed his DEP to block any attempt to return New Jersey to RGGI.’’

According to state law, a second State Assembly vote backing the resolution would mean the administration would have to reinstate the RGGI law. However, this would be the first time the Assembly would use this authority, and observers expect the administration to challenge it, which in turn would likely see green groups take the issue to court.

Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI in 2011, and has since vetoed two bills aiming at bringing the state back into the market.

A state appellate court in 2014 found that the Christie administration violated state law in the way it withdrew from RGGI, and it gave the government 60 days to follow official procedural rules and to amend or formally repeal the state’s climate change regulations.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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