The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is holding a public hearing Friday in Trenton on a proposal to repeal rules associated with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Governor Chris Christie pulled out of the ten-state carbon cap-and-trade agreement known as RGGI in 2011. In March, a state appeals court ruled the state broke procedure by doing so without allowing for public comment on associated rules.
Now, as directed by the court, the state environmental agency is officially proposing a repeal of the CO2 Budget Trading Program rules and is opening up the process to the public.
Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley said it is imperative to send a message beyond the governor’s mansion that it wants to re-enter the RGGI program.
“Even if we don’t think the governor is going to listen to the public, it’s really incumbent upon the public to bang louder on the governor’s door and say ‘If you’re not going to listen, this is going to have real impacts for the state, even when you’re gone from the statehouse,'” O’Malley said.
A DEP spokesman was adamant that New Jersey is not re-entering RGGI, a decision he said was final three years ago. Whether or not the CO2 rule is repealed, a procedural move, will not change that, the spokesman said.
Democtratic state Sen. Bob Smith accuses the Christie administration of burying the hearing during the summer doldrums.
“If you want people to attend, you do not schedule a hearing for a Friday in August,” Smith said. “Obviously Friday in August is an effort to deter any public comment. But it’s really not the public comment at this point that’s going to make the difference.”
Sen. Smith is sponsor of a concurrent resolution naming the repeal as inconsistent with legislative intent, a first step toward forcing the CO2 rules back onto the books. It is immune to gubernatorial veto, Smith said, and been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly, with Senate President Steve Sweeney as a sponsor.
If the legislation is successful, Smith and O’Malley said the question of New Jersey’s participation in RGGI may ultimately be decided in the courts.
Two bills forcing New Jersey to participate in the carbon agreement have already been vetoed by Gov. Christie.
Friday’s hearing takes place at 10a.m. at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Trenton offices.