New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has roused some of his sharpest policy critics again with his administration's request that President Barack Obama's administration withdraw its proposed rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across the country.
In the letter dated Nov. 26, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said that revisions could not make the plan work. "These draft rules are incomplete, needlessly complex and impossible to implement," Christie's administration said.
The administration of Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, questioned the Environmental Protection Agency's legal authority, as well as some technical points, for the plan in which it assigned each state a target for how much to reduce power plant emissions by 2030. New Jersey officials said the state's goals are too ambitious and do not take into account how much progress the state has made this century.
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Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the DEP, said the state's response was so detailed because the federal policy was so sweeping.
"It is totally unfair to New Jersey and many other states and it ignores much of what's already been done by the state," Ragonese said. "It in effect penalizes us for being very responsive to the need to make carbon reductions."
That position upsets environmental groups in the state, some of which have been at odds with Christie since he was elected five years ago--or before.
Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey branch, says Christie has rolled back or eliminated some of the programs that had made New Jersey a national leader in reducing carbon pollution.
"These rules are important for New Jersey because not only do we reduce greenhouse gases, but the reduction of greenhouse gases from states around us will help to reduce our air pollution," he said in a statement. "If New Jersey won't comply, then how do we get Pennsylvania and Ohio to comply?"
Tittel also suggested, as Christie's critics in New Jersey often do, that he is letting presidential politics drive his actions at home.
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese called the department's letter "an intelligently thought-out response to a very controversial plan," saying it requires more from states like New Jersey that have already cut emissions than it does others.
Bill Wolfe, founder of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the DEP's letter is troubling partly because he believes Obama's proposed rules are too weak and cede too much control to state governments in the first place.
He also said it's the latest in a string of actions Christie has taken on environmental issues.
"He doesn't deny science," Wolfe said. "He's willing to acknowledge the problem, but he's not willing to do anything about it."