In one of the most ambitious governmental actions yet taken on global warming, Gov. Corzine yesterday signed an executive order calling for his state to dramatically cut its greenhouse-gas emissions.
Under the order, New Jersey would cut its emissions to 1990 levels - a reduction of 20 percent - by 2020. It calls for a total 80 percent reduction by 2050.
"Today we have taken steps to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren by adopting aggressive goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," Corzine said in a press release.
Environmental groups cheered, but still at issue is whether Corzine will be able to get the legislative support he needs along with the cooperation of business and industry. Some cautioned that even if New Jersey meets its emissions goals, it could amount to naught if neighboring states, or even countries, don't also cut their emissions.
Corzine's move is another example of states taking their own action - on health care, stem-cell research, mercury emissions, and more - when they disagree with federal policy.
"In the absence of leadership on the federal level, the burden has now fallen upon state executives and legislatures to lead the way on this issue, and I'm proud that New Jersey is helping to blaze that trail," Corzine said.
He is asking the Department of Environmental Protection - along with other agencies and business and citizen groups - to create specific targets to meet goals, including limiting energy use among state vehicles and exacting fees from power plants that exceed pollution limits.
But potentially, said Angela Anderson of the National Environmental Trust, it can even be done without much sacrifice.
"The trick in dealing with our climate is going to be reengineering the way we produce power and reengineering our transportation systems," she said.
DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said two efforts had already put the state well on the way to meeting the goal for 2020.
New Jersey has joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and has set new standards to limit emissions from new cars and light trucks. The state also requires that 20 percent of the energy used in the state come from renewable sources by 2020.
This month, the International Panel on Climate Change concluded that human actions were "very likely" causing global warming, and said reductions such as the ones Corzine is calling for were vital.
Corzine "has recognized the scientific validity, the scientific necessity, of that long-term emissions goal," said Ned Raynolds, Northeast Climate Policy Coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Paul Tyahla, spokesman for the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, said that reducing energy demands was "appropriate" since "high energy costs have hampered development." He said, however, that he was worried about restrictions, saying that if they are tighter than those in other states, "it's something the business community is going to have an objection to."
In the United States today, 77 percent of our energy is generated by three fuels - coal, petroleum and natural gas, said Paul Falkowski, director of the Rutgers Energy Institute.
He said an obvious change would be to use the sun, wind and hydrologic sources such as streams to generate power.
The great power that a state has, he said, is to give tax incentives for increasing efficiencies.
Corzine said he would work with the Legislature to pass a bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D., Union). Called the Gobal Warming Response Act, it seeks similar emissions reductions.
The one thing that could overwhelm New Jersey's efforts would be inaction by other states, said Suzanne Leto Liou, an advocate with Environment New Jersey. She noted that a Texas company had proposed building conventional coal-fired power plants in Northeast Pennsylvania, just downwind. Their emissions would, in effect, wipe out New Jersey's cuts, she said.
She thinks the Legislature should require a global-warming emission standard for all electricity imported into New Jersey.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said flexibility was needed because some sectors would be easier to tackle than others. Energy efficiency is much easier than cleaning up emissions from oil refineries.
"It's critical to pull all this together," he said.
Read the governor's
executive order via http://go.philly.com/njgreenhouseEndText