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By Erin O'Neill July 4, 2011

Jeff Tittel says RGGI factored into Anheuser-Busch’s decision to stay in New Jersey

The "King of Beers" has reigned in Newark for more than half a century.

But according to Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser brewery may have been seeking a new home.

Soon after Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to pull New Jersey out of a regional cap-and-trade program, lawmakers, state officials, business leaders and environmental leaders debated the merits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, during a state assembly committee hearing.

In response to testimony that RGGI, known as "Reggie," was one of the reasons businesses were leaving the state, Tittel said, "When we talk about businesses, and I know this from first hand, one of the reasons that Budweiser stayed in New Jersey is the money they got from RGGI to put solar on their roof to save on their energy costs."

RGGI caps the amount of carbon dioxide power plants can emit in 10 states. Credits can be bought or sold if plants need to release more or less carbon dioxide. Proceeds from the sales help participating states fund clean energy initiatives.

PolitiFact New Jersey questioned whether the St. Louis-based beer company had ever considered abandoning its throne in the Garden State and if a reduction in energy costs from solar panels funded by RGGI was one of the reasons that convinced them to stay. Neither was true.

First, let’s note that Anheuser-Busch’s Newark brewery had solar panels installed on its roof.

A May 17, 2010 news release issued by Anheuser-Busch announcing the installation said more than 3,000 photovoltaic solar panels, covering 65,000 square feet, would be capable, at peak production, of "covering nearly five percent of the brewery's electricity demand." Orion Energy Systems installed and operate the solar panels, according to the release.

Anheuser-Busch officials quoted in the release talked about how the installation is an example of the company’s commitment to alternate energy sources. There is no mention of the solar panel project swaying the company to stay in New Jersey.

So the brewery had solar panels installed on its roof, but did the beer company receive RGGI funds for the project?

Tittel said his statement was based on a conversation he had with Al Komjathy, a lobbyist with the firm Komjathy & Stewart, which represents Anheuser-Busch, among other companies.

But Komjathy said he never spoke with Tittel about the issue. "I never had that discussion with him," he told PolitiFact New Jersey.

And Anheuser-Busch told us in a statement: "Our Newark brewery did not receive funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the solar panel project and there were no plans to relocate the brewery."

It’s worth noting that Anheuser-Busch applied for funding for a cogeneration power plant at its Newark brewery through the Clean Energy Solutions Capital Investment initiative, a financing program funded by RGGI proceeds and controlled by the state Economic Development Authority. Laura Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Economic Development Authority, said the agency approved Anheuser-Busch’s request, but that the beer company never used the funding.

Tittel said at the time he made the claim about the solar panels, "I thought it was accurate." Now, he said, "most of what I said was accurate but not 100 percent."

Most? Try little to nothing.

The only thing Tittel got correct in his statement is that solar panels were installed on the roof of Anheuser-Busch’s Newark brewery. Funding for the project did not come from RGGI and the company said it was never considering leaving the state.

Tittel tried to argue that although the brewery did not receive funding through RGGI, legislation, often called "the RGGI law," helped the project.

As part of the project, PSEG Power agreed to purchase solar renewable energy certificates produced by the solar panels, according to PSEG spokesman Fran Sullivan.

Tittel said he was referring to Section 13 in "the RGGI law" -- the section allows electric and utility companies to charge ratepayers for investments they make in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

However, a spokesman for the state Board of Public Utilities  told us that because PSEG Power is not regulated, Section 13 does not apply.

Let’s recap.

Tittel claimed one of the reasons Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser brewery in Newark stayed in New Jersey is because they received funding through RGGI to install solar panels, thereby reducing their energy costs.

Anheuser-Busch told us they weren’t planning on relocating the brewery and that they did not receive funds through RGGI for the solar project.

We rate Tittel’s claim False.

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Our Sources

Email and phone interviews with Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey Sierra Club, June 22 - 28, 2011

Email interview with Pier Scott, communications manager for Anheuser-Busch, June 24, 2011

Interview with Fran Sullivan, spokesman for PSEG, June 24, 2011

Interview with Greg Reinert, spokesman for New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, June 24, 2011 and June 28, 2011

Interview with Al Komjathy, lobbyist with Komjathy & Stewart, June 27, 2011

Anheuser-Busch Press Release, More Than 3,000 Solar Panels Help Power Anheuser-Busch's Newark Brewery, May 17, 2010

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Jeff Tittel says RGGI factored into Anheuser-Busch’s decision to stay in New Jersey

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