Christie seeks pass on Obama's Clean Power Plan

By S.P. Sullivan | NJ Advance Media for
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on September 02, 2015

President Barack Obama congratulates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie while playing the "TouchDown Fever" arcade game along the Point Pleasant boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., May 28, 2013


Calling it an "unlawful" overreach by the federal government, Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday slammed President Barack Obama's new Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut emissions at fossil fuel-fired power plans across the U.S.

Christie's administration is seeking an administrative stay and reconsideration from the sweeping new rules issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which have been endorsed by New Jersey environmental groups and the state's largest utility.

"This is a fundamentally flawed plan that threatens the progress we've already made in developing clean and renewable energy in New Jersey without the heavy-handed overreach of Washington," said Christie, whose criticism of the Obama administration's energy policies have grown more strident as he seeks the Republican nomination for president.

State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Wednesday claiming his agency had performed an "extensive and detailed analysis" of the new rules, concluding that they exceeded the EPA's regulatory authority and will lead to increased energy costs for New Jersey ratepayers.

The new plan, Martin wrote, is "uncommonly cumbersome, difficult and costly to implement, could undermine reliability, and would yield insufficient results given the effort to comply."

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in August, sets tougher limits on carbon dioxide releases by power plants and gives states individual goals for reducing emissions. It was applauded by the state's environmental advocates and tentatively endorsed by some power companies, including PSEG, New Jersey's largest utility.

Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said the EPA already significantly reduced New Jersey's emissions goals when the power plan moved from draft to final version.

"The EPA gave them what they wanted, and still the Christie administration is throwing a carbon temper tantrum," he said.

O'Malley criticized Christie for pulling the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a regional cap-and-trade program where power plant operators buy credits at quarterly auctions for the carbon dioxide they emit.

"The easiest way to comply with the Clean Power Plan is for New Jersey to rejoin RGGI," O'Malley said.

Martin said in his letter that the power plan unfairly "punishes the state for all of our good work in the recent past," claiming the state's carbon emissions rate is half that of most other states.

"New Jersey is already a national leader in reducing carbon emissions and air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ozone through combined-cycle natural gas, strict emissions controls, energy efficiency and renewable energy," he said.

New Jersey's opposition comes after 15 other states, most of them in the south and midwest, petitioned a federal court in Washington last month to delay implementation of the new rules. That prompted 15 other states, including New York, to issue statements supporting the plan.

New Jersey has not yet filed its opposition to the rules in court. Bob Considine, a DEP spokesman, said federal rules require them to request a stay through the EPA before bringing the issue before a judge.

Laura Allen, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, said Wednesday that the new power plan is "based on a sound legal and technical foundation" and that her agency and the federal Department of Justice "will vigorously defend it in court."

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