RGGI may be dying in New Jersey, but a judge has decided to let the cap-and-trade scheme take $105 million of secrets to the grave.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg dismissed a lawsuit to force the Department of Environment Protection to reveal the buyers of state-issued carbon dioxide permits sold at Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctions.
“The decision by the Governor to withdraw New Jersey’s participation in RGGI does not change the court’s decision,” wrote Feinberg in a 75-page opinion. The judge ruled that the confidentiality of auction bidders outweighed the public’s right to know about the transactions.
Investigative reporter Mark Lagerkvist filed the suit against NJDEP last year under the Open Public Records Act.
“This is a dark day for open government in New Jersey,” said Lagerkvist in response to the decision. “The court ruled the sales of 44 million permits issued by the state are confidential trade secrets – and that the public does not have a right to know who buys these public assets at auction, even though it impacts the electric bills of all New Jersey businesses and consumers.”
RGGI is a mandatory cap-and-trade system that has sold $886 million in carbon permits on behalf of 10 participating states. New Jersey’s share is $105 million.
Under RGGI, utilities are required to obtain an allowance for each ton of CO-2 released by their electric generators. The cost is ultimately passed along to businesses and consumers in the form of higher rates for electricity.
Adding intrigue to the auctions has been the presence of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Barclays Bank and other speculators who see an opportunity to profit by reselling permits to electric utilities.