The Koch brothers’ corporate front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) filed a lawsuit on Monday in New York’s State Supreme Court seeking to reverse a core piece of state action on climate change.
New York joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005 when former governor George Pataki (R) approved the state’s participation in the program. The suit alleges that New York is illegally (coercively) taxing residents by taking part in the market-based 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The AFP complaint also asserts that carbon emissions trading is unconstitutional because it infringes on federal authority to set rules on air pollution and electrical power transmission across states.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, are all named as defendants in the suit.
The RGGI is the first state-based cap-and-trade program requiring electric utilities to purchase state emissions permits (credits) which are used to fund clean energy initiatives, create green jobs, lower energy bills, improve energy efficiency and home weatherization programs. Over the last three years New York alone has raised $320 million from its participation in RGGI, adding an average of less than 50 cents a month to a resident’s power bills. In all, the 10 participating states have raised $770 million [pdf], while adding a mere 0.4% to 1% on average to electricity bills. The RGGI also amplifies initial investments since ratepayers end up saving $3 to $4 for every dollar invested.
Peter Iwanowicz, a former DEC commissioner and head of the state Office of Climate Change, as well as an affiliate of the American Lung Association, is challenging the dirty energy interests attacking RGGI: “It is clear that those who are behind the suit are standing up for polluters and their profits, and they care very little about the people in New York.”
Contrary to the Kochtopus lobbying campaigns to deny climate change and efforts to overturn the RGGI, a Koch subsidiary, Koch Supply and Trading of Wichita, participated in the very first RGGI trade of carbon allowances [pdf]. In fact, according to the Albany Times Union, Koch Industries traders took part in at least three of RGGI’s first nine emissions credit auctions.
And What About New York’s Neighbour New Jersey?
In May New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) vowed to abandon the RGGI by the end of 2011. Formerly a supporter of strong action on climate change, Christie now looks more like the many fellow Tea Party Republican climate deniers who were elected in droves last November.
Challenging the governor, this week, the New Jersey Assembly followed the state Senate in passing several bills aiming to prevent the state from leaving the RGGI.
John McKeon, chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, told SolveClimate News that the legislation “absolutely clears up any ambiguity of [Christie] being able to pull us out unilaterally.”
Unfortunately, the slim margins the bills passed by will do little to dissuade the governor from using his veto.
McKeon adds that pulling out of the RGGI disregards “…the intent of the Legislature which required New Jersey to be a member of RGGI,” and that “Governor Christie is ignoring the will of the people…”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) conducted a poll revealing that 74% of New Jersey voters support keeping New Jersey energy dollars in the state rather than spending this money on fossil fuels; 60% say they would be willing to pay an additional 75 cents on their monthly energy bills to curb power plant pollution and invest in cleaner, local energy sources like wind and solar; and 47% also said that leaving the RGGI would be inconsistent with the governor’s earlier commitment to clean energy as a way to rebuild the state’s economy and workforce, with only 33% thinking it would be consistent.
In all, New Jersey has raised more than $105 million from auctioning carbon credits since 2008.