An appeals court in New Jersey has ruled that the administration of Gov. Chris Christie did not follow proper procedures in pulling the state out of a regional plan to address greenhouse gas emissions.
Christie announced in May 2011 that he was taking New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI. New Jersey had been one of the 10 northeastern states that participated in RGGI's 2008 launch under the previous administration, but Christie withdrew the state three years later, declaring the program "a failure."
The court decision Tuesday held that the administration did not follow appropriate processes in leaving RGGI. The state posted an announcement on the Department of Environmental Protection's website on Jan. 1, 2012, announcing that power plants would no longer be subject to the carbon trading program requirements. Two environmental groups, Environment New Jersey and Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit arguing that the state had engaged in improper rule-making by posting the notice on the website, rather than going through the process of repealing state regulations.
The environmentalists won, but that doesn't mean that New Jersey will be rejoining the effort to cut emissions. The Record reports that "the ruling does not reinstate New Jersey into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. Instead, it ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to formally repeal the regulations that secured membership in RGGI. That would require public input."
The Record notes that the state DEP had no comment on the ruling.
"The Christie Administration sidestepped the public process required by law," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, in a statement. "New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming. We hope that today's ruling will help their voices be heard."
The court decision gives the Christie administration 60 days to start a public comment process on its withdrawal from the program.
A bill introduced this week in the New Jersey Senate would force the state to rejoin RGGI.