TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Christie administration improperly repealed regulations aimed at reducing pollution from power plants, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The appeal stems from a 2012 lawsuit by environmental groups challenging the way the state withdrew from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a measure aimed at reducing carbon dioxide pollution by setting limits on emissions by power plants that burn fossil fuels.
Christie withdrew from the initiative in 2011, calling it failed public policy that was a burden to taxpayers.
New Jersey's appellate division ruled Tuesday that the Christie administration didn't follow provisions required in the repeal process. The suit did not challenge the legality of New Jersey's withdrawal from the initiative, but argued that the administration had circumvented procedure — including a requirement to hold public hearings — and instead engaged in improper rulemaking by posting the withdrawal notice on the DEP's website.
Dale Bryk, a director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the suit with Environment New Jersey, said the appellate ruling sent a message that "Governor Christie doesn't get to play by his own rules."
"New Jersey will have to do something about its dirty power plants regardless of the outcome of this suit, as federal rules to cut power plant pollution in every state are coming down the line," Bryk said in a statement urging Christie to rejoin the RGGI. "Why reinvent the wheel? New Jersey should rejoin the now tried-and-true program that has proven itself to be a pollution-cutting, economy-boosting powerhouse in neighboring states."
Christie's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The appellate ruling orders the state's Department of Environmental Protection to take steps to properly repeal the regulations.
The attorney general's office, which represented the DEP in the lawsuit, had argued that the regulations didn't need to be formally repealed as their only purpose was to implement New Jersey's participation in RGGI, which the state had withdrawn from.
The court disagreed, saying the rules governing the portion of the RGGI that allows plants to buy and sell or trade required emissions permits were worded broadly enough "to be read as requiring action by the department absent its participation in a regional greenhouse program."
A spokesman said the attorney general's office was reviewing the appellate ruling.