The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

by R. Kress | June 30, 2015

Status: Declared candidacy on June 30, 2015

Party: Republican

Career Overview: Christie has been governor of New Jersey since 2010. Prior to that, he was appointed by former President George W. Bush as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. In 2012, Christie wavered on possibly launching a presidential bid of his own before ultimately endorsing Mitt Romney. He delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

National Policy Recommendations: Christie has indicated that energy policy will be a top priority during his campaign. At a fundraiser in February—prior to announcing his presidential bid—Christie said that if he were to run and become elected, he would establish a national energy policy that takes “full advantage of all [domestic] resources.” A month later, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal providing greater details on his recommended national energy policy, which include approving Keystone, lifting the ban on crude oil exports, and “expanding research into new technologies.”

Keystone XL: Christie sees energy development and the Keystone pipeline as a critical tool for economic growth. In December 2014, Christie met privately with Alberta premier Jim Prentice and told him that the pipeline was vital to improving the “geopolitical position of North America.” He called for construction on the Keystone XL pipeline to launch without penalties or delay, and referred to any environmental concerns as “collateral issues.” The pipeline’s congressional approval was, of course, vetoed by President Obama in February of this year.

Fracking: In a move that became unpopular with constituents of both parties, Christie twice vetoed a measure that would have prevented the disposal of fracking waste in the Garden State. In his second veto message released in summer 2014 he said, “I explained the lack of frackable shale in New Jersey means that the bill’s ban on fracking waste ‘from any state’ necessarily meant that the bill intended to embargo out-of-state waste…[which] would have created an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce.” In a state where tourism to beaches and other natural points of interest brings in billions of dollars each year and is a point of bi-partisan interest, Christie’s veto was viewed at the time as an early move to court GOP support from outside the state.

State Policy: During the campaign and in his early days as New Jersey governor, Christie backed a number of renewable energy initiatives:

Offshore Energy Development: In summer of 2010, Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. At the time, the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was still unresolved and spilling oil—a point he referenced as part of the reason why he opposed offshore drilling in his state.

“A few months ago, I was at the Jersey Shore talking about my renewed feeling regarding no offshore drilling in New Jersey and also that I did not want liquefied natural gas off the state of New Jersey’s coast, either,” Christie said. “That was well before the events we saw in the Gulf Coast and I think that it makes sense for us to go in this direction, not only because it’s good for the environment, but because it’s going to help us create jobs.”

A year later, in 2011, he reiterated his aversion to off-shore drilling in New Jersey and other states in the region for their potential impact on the coastal state’s $35.5 billion tourism industry. He also expressed renewed opposition to LNG facilities on the state’s coast.

Renewable Energy Portfolio: In 2011, Christie issued a press release saying that “the future for New Jersey is in green energy and already we’ve put in place policies to broaden our access to renewable sources of energy, cleaner natural gas generation and ending our reliance on coal generation.” In the statement, he outlined various data points regarding the state’s achievements in solar and wind energy. He also revised his state energy strategy to reach a “renewable energy portfolio target at an aggressive, achievable level of 22.5 percent by 2021.” Christie also committed to banning construction of any new coal fired power plants within New Jersey.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Despite the initiatives listed above, Christie pulled New Jersey out of the RGGI state cap-and-trade program, calling it “gimmicky” and saying it was doing nothing to solve climate change issues. While the move was derided by Democrats and environmentalists, state Republicans expressed support for Christie in his decision, having criticized RGGI with placing an additional burden on taxpayers.

Transportation: In 2014, Christie gained notoriety for his role in what came to be known as Bridgegate. But it’s an earlier, virtually unilateral transportation policy made by Christie that may ultimately pose the biggest challenge to his presidential bid—his decision to cancel development of a rail tunnel connecting his state to New York. New York Senator Chuck Schumer called it “one of the worst decisions that any governmental leader has made in the 20th or 21st century.”

When Christie took office in 2010, his predecessor had already broken ground on the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project: An underwater rail tunnel that would have connected New Jersey to Manhattan and doubled train traffic capacity by 2018. Fully-funded at $8.7 billion, the project was designed to benefit New Jersey’s commuters and alleviate the congestion facing travelers to New York City at rush hour. At the time, existing train tunnels were overworked and deteriorating, and studies enacted since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy have found that they’ve only gotten worse since. Christie defended his decision to cancel the nation’s largest transportation project because the price tag was likely to exceed the original estimate, in spite of $600 million in sunk costs and $3 billion in federal funding on the way to support the project. Instead, Christie opted to allocate the remaining funding on repairing and maintaining local roads and bridges.