One reason to oppose the Christie administration’s plan to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade program is that this removes a source of funding for sustainable land use and transportation planning. But, as a reader correctly points out, the funding provided by RGGI for these purposes is quite limited. And that’s par for the course. Even though transportation accounts for 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is almost entirely missing from the Christie administration’s environmental approach.
New Jersey has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under a 2007 law, the Global Warming Response Act, which says the state must reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and cut them to 80% below the 2006 level by 2050.
One of the state’s main strategies to address this was RGGI, a 10-state program in which power plants buy emissions permits at periodic auctions. Ten percent of New Jersey’s auction revenue goes to local programs, including grants for “energy efficiency, renewable energy, and distributed energy programs and land use planning.” This is a relatively small pot of money — about $5 million since RGGI’s first auction in 2008 — and it’s not clear how much of it has gone to land use planning, as opposed to energy programs. In fact, transportation isn’t mentioned in the rules proposed by the Dept. of Environmental Protection to implement RGGI.
Transportation is also barely mentioned in the state’s new revision to its Energy Master Plan, as NJ Future recently pointed out in an op-ed. The plan suggests increased use of natural gas and other alternative fuels in the state fleet and commercial vehicles, but doesn’t mention public transit and more compact land use as ways to reduce driving. The state did include transportation and land use strategies in a 2009 DEP report, but this report has sat on the shelf since its release, according to NJ Future.
The state’s actions speak as loud as its lack of words. Since 2010, New Jersey has canceled the Access to the Region’s Core rail tunnel, continued to support widenings of its major toll roads, increased subsidies to the Xanadu mega-mall, and attempted to divert Port Authority funds away from regional transit projects. It may be that the state has avoided claiming that its climate change efforts include transportation because there’s simply no way to make the claim with a straight face.