Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday that New Jersey will withdraw from a 10-state regional greenhouse gas reduction program by the end of the year, saying the program is ineffective at combating global warming.
"The whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It is a failure," the governor said.
The announcement thrilled conservatives, who have been dogging governors in Northeast states to abandon the effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions by having polluters pay for their fossil fuel output.
But it angered lawmakers who supported New Jersey's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, since 2008.
"Gov. Christie has in one wrong-headed decision decimated New Jersey's clean air and energy advocacy efforts," said Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat who chairs the Assembly environment committee. "Sadly, this day will go down in history as the one in which New Jersey ceded its standing as a leader in environmental protection efforts."
Though the state Legislature is controlled by Democrats, the majority party may be powerless to stop the Republican governor from carrying out the exit strategy because no legislation is needed for him to do so.
Christie said Thursday he is committed to increasing off-shore wind production and making solar energy more affordable. New Jersey gets about one-fifth of its energy from four nuclear power plants, including the country's oldest reactor.
Christie, who in November raised questions about the causes of global warming, said Thursday that he believes climate change is real and caused, at least partially, by human activity.
Besides New Jersey, participating states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.