Comments on New Jersey Rule

Lewis Letter to NJ Department of Environmental Protection

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Dear Ms. Previte:

On behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit public policy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., I am pleased to submit this comment on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rule, Reclassification of CO2 as an Air Contaminant (PRN 2004-399).

I. Introduction

DEP proposes to revise its regulatory definitions so that carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the category of “distillates of air” and reclassified as an “air contaminant” (pp. 3-4). This change in CO2’s status “is a regulatory prelude to anticipated future regulatory adoption of a Model Rule proposed through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI),” culminating in a Northeast/Mid-Atlantic “regional CO2 cap-and-trade program” (p. 5).

DEP believes that regulating CO2 is in the “best interest of human health, welfare, and the environment” (p. 5). I respectfully disagree. A carbon cap-and-trade program would make energy scarcer and less affordable, adversely affecting economic output, job creation, and household income. Because wealthier is healthier and richer is safer, cap-and-trade has a high potential to harm public health and welfare. The environmental benefits of a regional trading program, if any, would be so miniscule as to be undetectable.

The proposed rule is a conceptual muddle. Logically, DEP cannot classify CO2 as an “air contaminant” unless it is prepared to apply the same designation to water vapor—the atmosphere’s main greenhouse gas. Presumably, DEP has no intention to “cap” steam from nuclear power plants, or evaporation from public green spaces, but it should be aware of the regulatory folly that its argument implicitly demands.

More importantly, the proposed rule lacks a credible scientific rationale. There is no solid evidence that CO2 emissions are causing, or are likely to cause, “dangerous interference” with the global climate system. On the contrary, the balance of evidence suggests that CO2 emissions are greening the planet, enhancing biodiversity and global food availability.

Even if DEP’s scientific premises were correct, the RGGI cap-and-trade program would have no discernible effect on global climate change. Thus, any DEP-administered CO2 regulatory program is bound to fail a rudimentary cost-benefit test.