Policymakers and advocates in New Jersey are calling on Governor Chris Christie to return $65 million he diverted from a carbon-trading fund designed to help the state’s ratepayers reduce their energy bills. After announcing last Thursday that he was pulling his state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), calling the program a “tax” and a “failure,” Christie has shown no intentions of giving back the tens of millions of dollars he took from the fund to help close a budget gap.
Last year, Governor Christie raided a RGGI fund set aside for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that brings back $3 to $4 in value to ratepayers for every $1 invested. Now, some members of the New Jersey assembly are calling on Christie to return those “taxes” to the businesses and homeowners who benefit from those investments.
Upendra Chivukula, the Assembly deputy speaker, said that Christie owes it to New Jersey residents to replace the lost revenues.
“The governor has to be accountable to the ratepayers, because this money is coming from the ratepayers — not taxpayers,” he said. Chivukula was the first to sponsor the state’s RGGI bill and chairs the Assembly’s Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.
Neither assemblyman, however, said he had heard of talk of recovering the RGGI funds for clean energy spending.
Upon calling the program a “tax” and announcing his intentions to pull out of the nation’s first successful emissions reduction program last week, Christie also contracted himself by saying the program was not “expensive” enough to actually reduce emissions:
“RGGI has not changed behavior and it does not reduce emissions. We’re looking for broader results to benefit all ratepayers and all citizens. Finally and importantly, RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses with no discernible and measurable impact on our environment.”
Watch last week’s speech, in which Christie appears to embrace climate science, saying: “we know enough to say that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward we need to work to put policies in place that get at reducing those contributing factors.”
New Jersey has brought in over $100 million in proceeds from auctioning carbon allowances. However, only a small portion of that – about $29 million – was actually set aside for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects last year.