Myopia? Buffoonery? Hardly. It's a calculated effort to block clean and green energy programs as well as anything smacking of "climate change" mitigation. While Christie himself is not personally a climate-change denialist, the tea party and oil-soaked AFP most definitely fit in that category. Thus does Christie align himself with the most retrograde of his party's movers and shakers.
This is not the first time the governor has raided each fund:
Although repeating a budget-balancing move he has used in the past -- Christie diverted more than $400 million in clean energy funds to balance his first state budget — the proposal irked clean energy advocates. In his first three budgets, the Governor has diverted approximately $620 million in clean energy money into the general fund.Ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states established RGGI as a cap-and-trade program in 2005. It limits CO2 emissions from power plants and charges them for every ton of CO2 by which they exceed the limit. Plants that can't get below the limit are required to buy pollution allowances in state auctions. At least a quarter of the auction proceeds must be spent to benefit utility customers. Typically, the money is used to fund energy-efficiency and conservation programs for businesses and home-owners.
"They're cutting the program to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "When people go to buy an energy-efficient appliance, they won't be getting any rebates."
Christie conceded last May that climate change is real, but he claimed RGGI is ineffective and vowed to take the state out of the program by the end of 2012. Maria Gallucci of InsideClimate News reports:
In its three years in RGGI, New Jersey has generated more than $113 million in revenues from 14 auctions, even with Christie's diversion of millions of dollars. The proceeds helped homeowners and businesses purchase energy-efficient appliances, weatherize homes and install rooftop solar panels, resulting in $150 million in economic activity and the creation of nearly 1,800 jobs, according to a November report by Analysis Group, a Boston-based consulting firm.In a statement about the program, Matt Elliott, Environment New Jersey's Clean Energy Advocate, said:“It’s creating jobs, putting money back in our pockets, and cutting harmful air pollution. With data like this, the right choice is crystal clear: New Jersey should remain in RGGI and continue to reap the economic and environmental benefits for decades to come."
A report this month by Environment New Jersey claims that scrapping RGGI would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenues. The state, at minimum, could generate more than $170 million in auction proceeds between 2012 and 2018, the report found. RGGI authorities are now reviewing the program and could move to tighten emissions requirements. If that happens, the state could bring in between $340 million and $680 million during that six-year time period, it said.
That is what majority Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate hope to do with legislation reinstating RGGI. But they tried the same thing last year and Christie vetoed it. In New Hampshire, it's the opposite. The Republican-controlled legislature is trying to bail out of RGGI. A year ago, Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed a similar effort.
It's tempting to chalk this up to just one more backward-looking move by just one more dunderhead. But Christie is no fool. And even though he didn't take up the Koch Bros. offer to help fund a presidential run in 2012, he knows where he can get suitcases of cash four years from now if the White House looks more tempting then. And he obviously knows how to make the owners of that cash happy in the meantime.