(Bloomberg) -- Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature are looking to get around Republican Governor Chris Christie again, this time to rejoin a regional pollution-reduction program he withdrew from in 2011.
A measure passed by a Senate committee today would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment requiring the state to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state carbon-trading cooperative that New Jersey helped create in 2005. Christie, who took office in 2010, called the program a failure and has twice resisted legislative efforts to rejoin it.
Democrats, who control both legislative houses, are using a tactic they successfully employed in November, when they asked voters to support a minimum-wage increase Christie vetoed. That measure, which also appeared on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, passed with 61 percent support even as Christie was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote.
“This is the course of last resort,” Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat from Elizabeth, said in an interview. “This is for when all other efforts have failed and we’ve reached an impasse with the governor.”
The Senate Environment Committee, with three Democrats and two Republicans, voted 4-1 today to advance the measure. The resolution must be approved twice by a simple majority of the full legislature within a calendar year, or once by a three- fifths vote, to appear on the ballot, Lesniak said.
New Jersey had already reached reduction targets for greenhouse-gas emissions, and the program failed to accomplish its goal of motivating companies to cut pollution, Christie said when he announced the withdrawal in May 2011. The governor has said he believes global warming is occurring and humans are playing a role in it, a matter of debate among many of his fellow Republicans.
The state won’t allow new coal-fired power plants and will seek to increase solar- and wind-energy production, Christie said at the time.
Michael Drewniak, his spokesman, didn’t return an e-mail or telephone call today seeking comment on the resolution.
Lesniak and Senator Bob Smith, a Democrat from Piscataway, say that carbon emissions are causing global warming, which threatens a state with 127 miles (204 kilometers) of coastline. Smith, chairman of the environment committee, said the effect of climate change was evident when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012, causing $30 billion of damage in New Jersey.