New Jersey study says taxing plants for carbon emissions creates jobs

Ozone, the chief component of smog, is a byproduct of emissions from automobiles, power plants and oil refineries such as this refinery, above, on the Delaware River. The EPA estimates that ozone contributes to dozens of premature deaths each year in the Philadelphia area.
Ozone, the chief component of smog, is a byproduct of emissions from automobiles, power plants and oil refineries such as this refinery, above, on the Delaware River. The EPA estimates that ozone contributes to dozens of premature deaths each year in the Philadelphia area.
Posted: February 16, 2012

Taxing power plants for their carbon emissions doesn't kill jobs, it creates them, according to a report issued Wednesday by a New Jersey environmental policy group.

New Jersey's participation in a regional effort to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions brought the state $151 million in economic benefits, including nearly 1,800 jobs, over three years, according to the study issued by Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center.

The nonprofit group urged Gov. Christie to support a bill that would have the state rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a consortium of nine mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states that aim to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in their states by 2018. Christie pulled New Jersey out of the program last year, saying the cap-and-trade-system burdened businesses and did not work.

New Jersey would benefit environmentally and economically from rejoining the initiative, according to the center. During the three years New Jersey participated in the program, it cut gas emissions by 13,100 metric tons annually - equivalent to taking 2,500 passenger vehicles off the road each year. If it stayed in the program until 2018, the state would reduce the average monthly electricity bill by $25 per residential customer and $181 for every business customer, according to the report.

"Even if you didn't believe in global warming ... the solutions make sense because there's all kinds of benefits," said David Pringle, campaign director for the nonprofit NJ Environmental Federation.

But a state environmentalism official called the economic benefit of RGGI "minuscule" and said New Jersey does not need to belong to the program in order to clean the air.

"We have made significant strides in reducing carbon emissions," said Larry Ragonese, press director for the Department of Environmental Protection. The economic benefits of RGGI, he said, "are far offset by the negative impact on businesses. ... It adds a level of bureaucracy."

States that participate in RGGI require fossil-fuel-burning power plants to buy allowances for carbon emissions, essentially paying in proportion to the amount they pollute. The money is invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont are program participants.

Christie said in May that New Jersey was withdrawing from the consortium, calling the program a tax on electricity. He pulled the state out at the end of the year and vetoed a legislative attempt to rejoin it.


Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at jfarrell@phillynews.com, 856-779-3237, or @joellefarrell on Twitter.

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