"RGGI allowances were never expensive enough to change behavior as they were intended to and ultimately fuel different choices," Christie said. "In other words, the whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It's a failure.
"RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment," he continued.
Supporters of the initiative were quick to respond, pointing to a February 2011 report from RGGI Inc., a nonprofit group that oversees the program, which found that climate change air pollution across the region had fallen 30 percent since 2008.
Regional energy costs reportedly dropped between 15 and 30 percent, due partly to RGGI-funded energy efficiency programs that created a year's worth of work for nearly 18,000 people across the 10 states.
In New Jersey, the carbon trading program adds about 30 cents to monthly residential energy bills, NRDC's Bryk said.
New Jerseyans Support RGGI, Poll Shows
Coincidentally, the environmental group released a poll of 600 New Jersey residents just hours ahead of Christie's announcement.
The survey found that 47 percent of respondents said pulling out of RGGI would be inconsistent with Christie's stated clean energy goals, including the implementation of 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind turbines — though 33 percent of respondents said an exit would be consistent with the governor's clean power and job-creation goals.
Seventy-four percent of those polled said they wanted to keep New Jersey energy dollars in the state, rather than spend state money to import fossil fuels from outside sources.
"How is [Christie] going to revitalize New Jersey's economy, create jobs, lower energy bills and lower pollution when he just threw away a program that does that?" Bryk asked. "He has just taken the most effective policy tool that he has out of his tool box."
New Jersey's RGGI withdrawal, however, is not cast in stone.
The governor must complete a lengthy regulatory process, during which time proponents intend to rally support for the initiative. Further, Assemblymen McKeon and Chivukula told SolveClimate News that within the next several weeks, the lawmakers intend to propose legislation that would revoke the governor's authority on RGGI.
"We want to take it out of the governor's jurisdiction and show that what the legislature wants, on behalf of the taxpayers and residents of New Jersey, is for New Jersey to participate in RGGI," Chivukula said.