A plan to combat global warming in New Jersey could end up subsidizing power plants that put more greenhouse gases into the air, environmental groups complained on Thursday.
The legislation has been rewritten to allow power plants to get anti-warming funding — and to remove a requirement that recipients prove they would cut greenhouse emissions, environmentalists said during a Trenton news conference.
It’s a giveaway to power companies and one of the many reasons the groups said they no longer support New Jersey’s first serious effort to crack down on heat-trapping pollution.
“How do you get money to reduce greenhouse gases when you’re becoming a new source of greenhouse gases?” asked Jeff Tittel, director of the state Sierra Club. “This bill is not about the environment anymore; it’s about lobbying and special interests.”
A spokesman for one of the electric producers that could benefit, however, said developing more efficient power plants that replace older, more polluting versions could help in the climate fight.
“We’re already short on electricity production in New Jersey, and until we build more of it at the lowest greenhouse intensity, we’re just going to extend the life of coal plants outside of New Jersey,” said Matthew Held, a spokesman for New Brunswick-based LS Power Inc.
The so-called “cap and trade” bill (S2976) would allow New Jersey to join nine other Northeastern states seeking to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from power plants.
The program would limit overall emissions and require companies to buy “allowances” for each ton of carbon they emit. Utilities that cut pollution could sell allowances to companies that need to emit more, creating a financial incentive to clean up, the theory goes.
The program would cut emissions 10 percent by 2019 and do nothing about vehicles or other major greenhouse sources, but supporters see it as a first step that could encourage the federal government to start a national effort.
But those goals could be jeopardized by the state legislatures’ attempt to rewrite the program, environmentalists said.
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