NEW YORK (Reuters) - Environmental groups sued New Jersey on Wednesday for Governor Chris Christie's decision to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state compact that aims to cut air pollution from power plants.
Last May, Christie declared the compact, known as RGGI and pronounced "Reggie," was an ineffective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and announced the state would withdraw.
In a lawsuit filed in Trenton's Superior Court, Appellate Division, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey said that decision was illegal because state law required the Christie administration to notify the public of its intention and to provide a meaningful public comment period.
"Governor Christie unilaterally made his decision to leave RGGI - without taking any input from stakeholders or the public," said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey. "As we contend today, his actions are not only bad public policy, but also illegal."
A spokesman for Christie, Michael Drewniak, called RGGI "a failed public policy that taxed businesses and residents and left New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage."
"There was nothing illegal about our withdrawal from RGGI," Drewniak said in a statement. "Participation in the RGGI consortium was via a contractual arrangement with provisions for any state to pull out with notice and without penalty."
RGGI, which includes New England and Mid-Atlantic states, established limits on carbon dioxide emissions, thought to be a key factor in global warming.
Under the plan, states agreed to cap and then reduce carbon dioxide pollution by 10 percent by 2018. The scheme also provides technical support for states that auction carbon credits to electric power plants.
New Jersey's Democrat-controlled state legislature voted earlier this year to continue New Jersey participating in RGGI. Last year, Christie, a Republican, vetoed a similar measure.
Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Cynthia Osterman