FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE GOVERNOR’S OPENING STATEMENT
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
Morning everybody. Thank you for coming. First, a couple of preliminary things. In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state. There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade average temperatures have been rising, temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate. In order to best deal with climate change we have to understand its causes. That was the root of the question that I was asking at the time of my town hall meetings and it’s gotten a lot of attention. So in the last number of months since that time I’ve taken some time to develop a better understanding of the role that humans play in global warming and what impact human activity has on our climate. The last few months I’ve sat down with experts both inside the government and outside the administration in academia and other places, to discuss the issue in depth. I’ve also done some reading on my own on the topic as well. I’m certainly not a scientist which is the first problem.
So, I can’t claim to fully understand all of this. Certainly not after just a few months of study. But when you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward, we need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors.
Now, after extensive review with the DEP and others in my administration, our analysis of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI reveals that this program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future.
First, RGGI allowances were never expensive enough to change behavior as they were intended to and ultimately fuel different choices. When RGGI began the industry projected that the cost of allowances would eventually be as high as twenty to thirty dollars a ton compared to the current price of less than $2 per ton, at which point the cost would have been sufficient to affect a decision of energy producers to choose lower carbon fuels or more efficient production technologies. This is not the case. It has not happened. Trends indicate the cost of the allowance will continue to be at the floor reserve price and there will be no significant secondary market for allowances. In other words, the whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It’s a failure.
Second, New Jersey’s carbon emissions from a report the DEP will release today are already below the goals for 2020 set out in New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act, the legislation that permitted the state to participate in RGGI. According to this most recent report which was conducted before RGGI was implemented, greenhouse gas emissions are down in New Jersey. Reduced emissions have been due to increased use of natural gas, and the decreased use of coal. We’re seeing that the market and not RGGI has created incentives to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels.
Third, given that we now have laws that provide significant market incentives for wind, solar, and instate natural gas generation, any benefits that the RGGI tax may have had are miniscule. In fact fourteen laws have been passed since the Global Warming Response Act was passed authorizing us to join RGGI. These fourteen laws all accomplish the goals of promoting clean energy without the need to participate in RGGI at all. RGGI has not changed behavior and it does not reduce emissions. We’re looking for broader results that benefit all ratepayers and all citizens.
Finally and importantly, RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernable or measurable impact upon our environment. Because states such as Pennsylvania are not RGGI members it’s just possible that by making the cap too stringent clean New Jersey plants would be forced to close only to be replaced by power from dirty Pennsylvania coal plants. It doesn’t make any sense environmentally or economically and the continuation of this tax makes no sense for my efforts and the Lieutenant Governor’s continued efforts to make New Jersey a more business-friendly environment and a place where private sector jobs can continue to be created.
So, we will withdraw from RGGI in an orderly fashion by year’s end. This also corresponds with the end of the first compliance period when compliance entities must true up, match their allowances to their emissions. By giving them this notice we are confident that the market and the participants will be able to adjust to our withdrawal from RGGI.
So, to be clear, our commitment continues to combating climate change and looking for new clean and cleaner energy sources for New Jersey. We’re committed to putting in place policies that actively work to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the 22 ½% renewable portfolio standard target by 2021. The future for New Jersey is in green energy and already we’ve put in place policies to broaden our access to renewable sources of energy, cleaner natural gas generation and ending our reliance on coal generation.
Let me start there. One of the things that I’m announcing today is that there will be no new coal permitted in New Jersey. From this day forward any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy in New Jersey is over. We know that coal is a major source of CO2 emissions. We will no longer accept coal as a new source of power in the state and we will work to shut down older dirtier, peaker and intermediate plants that emit high greenhouse gases. We need to commit in New Jersey to making coal a part of our past. We’re going to work to make New Jersey number one in offshore wind production. Last year I signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act to provide financial assistance and tax credits to businesses that construct, manufacture, and assemble water access facilities that support offshore wind products. The DEP has completed the first of its kind, two-year baseline study that identifies optimal sites for offshore wind turbines. This study combined with the strong policies I’ve spoken about is going to be instrumental and has been instrumental at the Department of the Interior recognizing New Jersey in its Smart from the Start program as a wind energy area. That provides us the opportunity for expedited federal permitting in this area, and we’re going to try to take advantage of it. We’ve joined with the federal government and other East Coast states to establish the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium to promote commercial wind development on the outer continental shelf. And we’ve accelerated the development of offshore wind projects by working closely with Interior and the Bureau of Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement to speed the implementation of 1100 MW of wind turbines. Since the call for interest last month we will be receiving applications for more than 3,000 MW of projects within the next two weeks.
So the interest in New Jersey in wind power is significant, because of the laws that this administration has helped to put into place and we are going to continue to pursue that.
Second, we are going to go further with solar energy. Last year, I signed legislation exempting solar projects from certain land uses restrictions, recognizing that solar energy development is an important land use that is protective of our environment. Currently, 9000 solar- voltaic projects totaling 330 megawatts are in use statewide as of April 30th of this year. We are focusing on expanding solar on brown fields and landfills. We talked about this during the campaign, we believe that we can re- duel environmental and economic benefits by promoting remediation
We’re focusing on expanding solar on ground fields and landfills, we talked about this during the campaign, We believe we can reap dual environmental and economic benefits by promoting remediation of sites otherwise lacking in value, and returning them to beneficial use. Specifically, the Meadowlands Commission has now re-zoned portions of the closed landfill sites in the Meadowlands for use as solar fields. This is exactly the type of thing we talked about in the campaign, and I’m happy that the Meadowlands Commission has moved forward with the re-zoning and now we can work towards increasing solar energy in the Meadowlands. Solar is increasing, as you know, in both the residential and commercial sectors, and that trend is likely to continue with the reduction in solar installation costs and the expectation of continued technological advancements in solar.
Next, we’re encouraging in-state energy generation, which is cleaner. We joined the legislature in a bi-partisan fashion to create the LCAPP program to encourage the construction of natural gas power plants within New Jersey dedicated to serving New Jersey customers. This program will bring new generation into the state and safeguard electric reliability and reduce New Jersey’s dependence on environmentally harmful coal resources for both inside and outside of our state. This is going to provide a mechanism for up to 2,000 new megawatts of generation. Awards were given to three strategically located natural gas projects, we’ve appealed the FERC ruling that says that we can’t move forward with this, and separately, the BPU is proceeding to expand our in-state natural gas generation on their own. 78% of New Jersey’s electric resources come from in-state sources and more than half of our electricity is carbon-free, coming from either nuclear or renewable sources. Part of our long term plan will look to see whether additional nuclear units in the state make sense as well. The 22% of electricity we do import accounts for 50% of New Jersey’s carbon emissions, which is why our focus is on home-grown generation and going after power plants that are outside of New Jersey and polluting our state, like the Pennsylvania coal-firing plants we’re battling under section 126, for the Cortland, Pennsylvania plant, and in court, for 4 western Pennsylvania plants, which are polluting the environment here in New Jersey.
Lastly, it’s this administration’s belief that the cleanest energy is the energy that we don’t use, and the State has to lead in terms of conservation. And so we’re going to lead by example on energy efficiency and I have established today a State Energy Savings Initiative Oversight Committee which will be chaired by the Treasurer and by Commissioner Martin. And they’re going to design a framework for a successful program that will take the New Jersey Energy Savings Improvement Programs Act, which enables the state to improve facilities, thereby lowering operating costs without upfront capital costs. The cost savings of the energy improvement measures will pay for the Capitol improvements and provide additional savings to the state in terms of lower utility bills, and just as important, reduce the state’s use of energy, and reduce the effect that the use of that energy has on our environment.
But we see that this is happening already on a large scale at the Empire State Building. They began renovations last summer, expected to reduce their energy use by 38% a year by 2013 and an annual savings of $4.4 million dollars. By reducing energy use, the Retrofit Plan envisions cutting down the pollution the Empire State Building produces by 105,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. New Jersey is going to strive to bring the same type of energy efficiencies to our public buildings through this oversight committee that we’re establishing and the utilization of existing legislation and statutes in the state.
So, we remain completely committed to the idea that we have as a responsibility as a state to make the environment of our state and of the world better. We have an obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re going to do it in the concrete ways that I’ve laid out here today. We’re not going to do it by participating in gimmicky programs that haven’t worked. And, you know, in the end, our view is it’s better to do things the right way than to do things the politically correct way. The fact is, we’ve looked at this program, we’ve spent 16 months looking at it, and it simply doesn’t work. And we’re not going to participate anymore in something that doesn’t work, but that is not abandonment of our commitment to continue to work towards more renewable energy and, for those energies that are not renewable, the cleanest possible energy we can use, including natural gas and nuclear. So, I want to thank both Commissioner Martin and BPU President Solomon for their hard work on this portion of the issue. We’ll have more to say in the next week or two regarding the overall Energy Master Plan, which we’ll be announcing and putting even more specifics on the outline that I gave to you here. But New Jersey continues to be committed to being a responsible user of energy and a responsible steward of our environment, and we’re going to do it in the way we think the facts prove can be done the best way.