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Last year New Jersey Governor Chris Christie diverted an estimated $65 million from the state's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) revenues to help balance a $10.7 billion budget. Now that the governor has pulled the state from the regional carbon trading pact, some RGGI supporters are suggesting he should pay back the clean energy funds.

Last Thursday, Christie announced that he would withdraw New Jersey from the nation's first cap-and-trade scheme, which he called a failure and an ineffective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The diversion of funds from the state's Global Warming Solutions Fund from fiscal year 2010 to 2011 limited the program's reach.  The $65 million in proceeds were initially intended for the state's Clean Energy Solutions Capital Investment (CESCI) loan/grant program, which supports renewable energy, energy efficiency and customer assistance projects in New Jersey.

Last year, the state had allotted $29.6 million for 12 large-scale projects, but eventually scaled back to only six projects worth $12.3 million in loans after Christie spent some of those funds on the budget.

Under RGGI, power plants in 10 participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states must cap carbon dioxide emissions at 188 million short tons per year through 2014, with additional annual reductions of 2.5 percent from 2015 to 2018. States then sell carbon allowances through auctions to fund their respective clean energy programs.

Participating states have raised nearly $861 million in carbon allowances from the 11 quarterly online auctions that have been held since 2008. Sixty-three percent of the earnings have helped improve energy efficiency and accelerate renewable energy deployment, according to RGGI figures.

New Jersey's revenues total $102 million to date, the fourth highest amount behind New York, Maryland and Massachusetts. (Reuters, 5/31/2011)