Environmental advocates urge Christie to rejoin greenhouse gas reduction initiative



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TRENTON, New Jersey — Environmental advocates were given the chance Friday to weigh in on proposal by Gov. Chris Christie's administration to formally repeal rules aimed at reducing power plan pollution.

The court-ordered hearing comes more than two years after Christie withdrew the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a so-called "cap-and-trade" measure aimed at reducing carbon dioxide pollution by setting limits on emissions by power plants that burn fossil fuels.

A New Jersey appeals court ruled in March that the Department of Environmental Protection failed to follow provisions required to repeal the regulations — including a requirement to hold public hearings — and engaged in improper rulemaking by posting the withdrawal notice on the DEP's website.

The attorney general's office, which represented the DEP in the lawsuit, had argued that the regulations didn't need to be formally repealed because their only purpose was to implement New Jersey's participation in RGGI, which Christie withdrew from in 2011, calling it a failed public policy that was a burden to taxpayers.

The DEP's Ray Cantor told attendees a formal repeal would not affect the state's participation in the program. But advocates urged them to reconsider.

"The message we relayed is that we really have to rejoin RGGI," said Trisha Sheehan, the New Jersey field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a group dedicated to fighting air pollution, who testified with her 8-year-old son, Logan. She said that New Jersey's recent severe weather underscored the need to do more to address climate change.

Doug O'Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, which brought the lawsuit along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he hoped the outpouring would also serve as a call to action to the legislature to step in and invalidate the repeal.

"Gov. Christie is on the wrong side of public opinion on his decision to pull New Jersey out of this landmark climate program," O'Malley said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has introduced legislation that attempts to require New Jersey to re-enter the program.

The administration says its emission rates remain below many member states.

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