Happy New Year! 2018 marks a change in our state as we usher in the 218th Legislative Session and a new Murphy/Oliver administration. Lame duck officially ended Tuesday, Jan. 9 at noon, but former Gov. Chris Christie had until Tuesday, Jan. 16 at noon to sign, veto or ignore the bills on his desk. In the end, he signed about 100 bills and pocket-vetoed many others, including the solar bill.
Nuclear Power Plants
Last year, Senators Kip Bateman, R-16, and Bob Smith, D-17, introduced S-3061, which directed the BPU to study our nuclear industry. The bill didn’t get much traction, but it did ignite intense debate that would continue over the year on what to do with nuclear reactors in this state.
Late in December, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Smith sponsored S-3560, which proposed Nuclear Diversity Certificates. The bill established a tariff to compensate nuclear power plants that deliver electricity to the state, which add fuel diversity and reliability, but create financial difficulty in current markets. The former governor declared that he wanted a clean bill. This was interpreted as no amendments, bill in its existing form without amendments. However, NJBIA sought amendments to the bill. In December in committee, NJBIA secured the only amendment made to the bill and as such broadened the scope of customer to include businesses. Ultimately, the bill was not voted upon in either house, although it was posted in the Senate. This session it has been reintroduced as S-877.
In 2018, expect this issue to be revisited, but in a broader form. Gov. Phil Murphy has supported 100 percent renewables to power the state.
Climate Change and Compacts
The Senate Environment & Energy Committee will meet on Jan. 22 to consider joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Paris Climate Accords, and dedicating RGGI proceeds to electric vehicles and other climate change initiatives. Governor Murphy has vowed to rejoin RGGI. His wife, Tammy Murphy, is very active in climate change issues and plans to have her office look at environmental policy as well.
Governor Murphy has nominated Catherine McCabe from EPA to serve as DEP Commissioner and current BPU Commissioner Joe Fiordaliso to serve as BPU President.
McCabe worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 22 years and was the deputy chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section from 2001 to 2005. She then moved to the Environmental Protection Agency, where, among other jobs, she served as the deputy regional administrator of EPA’s Region 2, which includes New Jersey. She served as the acting EPA administrator from Jan. 20, 2017 until President Trump’s EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, was confirmed in February.
Fiordaliso has served on the BPU since 2005. He was first nominated to the BPU by Gov. Richard Codey, and then renominated twice by Gov. Chris Christie. Fiordaliso is active in the solar policy debate and knows the renewable landscape.
As a side note, Senator Smith asked the Attorney General nominee, Gurbir Grewal, about Natural Resource Damages (NRD) during his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Grewal, whose nomination later received unanimous Senate approval, said in committee that New Jersey should use whatever legal tools are available to protect the resources of the state. Smith asked Grewal how to standardize the number to put on NRD and asked him for help in doing that. Additionally, Smith asked Grewal if he would outsource NRD cases or if that was something he would do in house. Grewal said if we have the expertise and resources in house we should use them, but if it requires specialized counsel then we should bring them in.