New Jersey’s new Democratic governor has ordered the state to rejoin a regional environmental pact aimed at reducing carbon emissions in New England and parts of the Mid-Atlantic.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday mandating New Jersey state officials start negotiations with the nine member states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, to determine how New Jersey should re-enter.
"New Jersey has not been a partner to our neighbor states in advancing the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions since pulling out of RGGI," Murphy said in New Jersey during the signing of his executive order. "Pulling out of RGGI slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities."
Environmental advocacy organizations applauded Murphy's move.
"This effort is a tremendous example of state action in the face of climate denial and rollbacks of critical climate programs at the federal level," Andrea McGimsey, director for global warming solutions at Environment America, said in a statement.
RGGI works by capping the amount of carbon pollution power plants in participating states can emit each year, and then reduces that cap by a small percentage over time. Power plants are also required to purchase allowances through an auction process for each ton of air pollution they emit.
The money raised through the auctions is invested in energy-efficiency programs within member states, such as rebates for energy-efficient appliances and weatherization of homes.
Murphy said New Jersey has foregone an estimated $279 million in revenue that could have been realized had the state participated in RGGI.
Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of the program in 2011, saying it didn't effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amounted to a tax on utility customers.
All New England states, including New York, Delaware and Maryland, are members of the initiative.
RGGI states recently agreed to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, relative to 2020 emission levels.