New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration violated state law in the way it withdrew from a regional program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, a state appellate court ruled.
New Jersey must begin amending or repealing the state’s climate-change regulations within 60 days, according to a three- judge panel in Trenton. Christie’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative drew a lawsuit in 2012 from environmental groups, who cheered today’s ruling.
“Neither Governor Christie nor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection can simply repeal state laws by fiat,” Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said in a statement.
Christie decided to withdraw by the end of 2011 from RGGI, which set a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and created a trading program. Christie said RGGI, which then included the six New England states, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland, failed because the low auction prices it drew didn’t motivate companies to change business practices.
New Jersey’s withdrawal meant emissions producers no longer had to comply with the program and DEP didn’t make emissions allowances available for purchase or give emissions offsets to companies.
Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council sued, claiming DEP improperly posted its withdrawal from the trading program on the department’s website rather than follow the Administrative Procedure Act. DEP argued that by withdrawing from RGGI, its trading program regulations are defunct, according to the ruling.
The judges found “little doubt” that lawmakers meant for trading-program regulations to “enable New Jersey’s participation in RGGI, rather than to establish a stand-alone carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program in New Jersey.”
The regulations are broadly worded and “can be read to require action by the department absent participation in a regional greenhouse program,” according to the ruling.
“The department should have taken action to repeal the regulations or amend them to clarify that they do not create a stand-alone trading program,” the judges ruled.
The governor’s spokesmen, Michael Drewniak, Kevin Roberts and Colin Reed, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the decision.
“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, state law? We’re not doing this anymore,’” Dale Bryk, a director and attorney at New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said today in a phone interview. “The same way you pass a law you have to unravel a law. And that’s what they didn’t do.”
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