TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Two bills aimed at keeping New Jersey in a regional greenhouse gas reduction pact received final approval from the Legislature Wednesday, but the fate of the state's participation was no closer to being resolved.
Gov. Chris Christie announced in May he was pulling the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, by the end of the year. Democrats fast-tracked three bills through the Legislature to try to stop him.
New Jersey is one of 10 states currently participating in the pact, which seeks to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases believed to be a factor in global warming. To emit the pollutants, energy producers must acquire permits that can be bought and sold among plants, making it fiscally prudent to rein in their emissions.
The Assembly voted 43-34 Wednesday to approve a measure requiring the state to stay in the pact. The Senate had already passed the legislation, and it now heads to Christie's desk for his signature. Because the bill is a direct rebuke to Christie's announcement, it appears almost certain he will veto it.
"He's made his decision, which was final and within his authority," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said after the bills were introduced.
Another measure passed by the Assembly on a 44-34 vote characterizes any withdrawal from the pact as an infringement on the Legislature's intent to support anti-global warming initiatives. As a legislative resolution, that measure does not require Christie's signature, but it is also non-binding, meaning the Republican governor can ignore it if he chooses.
In announcing the withdrawal, Christie called the pact a failure and said it had been ineffective in curbing pollution. There is also disagreement on whether the program has driven up energy costs. Environmental activists have said New Jersey is abandoning its status as a leader in ecological protections.
Despite the lingering uncertainty, environmentalists quickly praised the votes Wednesday.
"By passing this bill, the Legislature has acted to protect New Jersey's environment and green economy and to prevent the governor from pulling out of RGGI and abandoning the funding from RGGI," said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club.
Tittel said the votes indicate that lawmakers would be likely to support legislation preventing the regulatory changes that would be required before the state could withdraw from the pact.