NJ clean energy advocates proud of work so far, but say more must be done
In unveiling their Legislative Common Agenda just weeks into a new session in Trenton on Wednesday, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund took a look back before looking forward, touting the last two legislative sessions as the most environmentally successful in the state's history.
Ed Potosnak, New Jersey LCVEF executive director, said among the progress made in those terms — which covered the first four years of Gov. Phil Murphy's tenure — were the passing into law of all five of the LCV's legislative priorities.
That meant new standards for household appliances, an electric vehicle rebate program, a "cumulative impacts" bill to limit pollution in overburdened communities, "save the bees" legislation, and a single-use plastic bag ban.
But Wednesday's virtual press conference that called on Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14th, and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-33rd, underlined the need for continued legislative support, according to Potosnak.
"Even things that seem pretty straightforward often are more difficult than they need to be or we would expect them to be in the legislative process, and that's why it takes great partners in the legislature," Potosnak said.
Mukherji said the Garden State still has a long way to go to ensure clean water and energy for all, and residents don't need Ida or Henri or Sandy to remind them of the perils of climate change, especially when they've already been fighting COVID-19.
"People are going to have to be relocated, during my children's lifetimes, as sea levels rise due to climate change unless we act in a way that this is as imminent a threat and as imminent a crisis as the public health crisis we're facing right now," Mukherji said.
For 2022-23, the Legislative Common Agenda recommended by LCV to the administration and legislature has five priorities:
- Require 100% clean electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035
- Include climate change in the State Hazard Mitigation Plan
- Ensure accessible, electrified, and modern public transit options
- Reign in warehouse sprawl in order to protect and increase access to open space
- Use low-carbon construction materials to reduce carbon pollution from homes and businesses
The last of those priorities was one Greenstein specifically said she would concentrate on in the new session.
Changing the environmental footprint of mass transit was part of the last set as well as this one, something Marcus Sibley, environmental climate justice chair for the New Jersey NAACP and New York metro-area director of conservation partnerships for the World Wildlife Federation, focused on.
He said Newark and Paterson are both Top 10 cities nationwide in the lowest percentage of residents who own a vehicle, and that public transportation is responsible for 45% of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Our public transportation should not be a constant visualization of the dehumanization that's become standard in towns where populations are predominantly Black, people of color, and poor," Sibley said.
Nicole Miller, principal of MnM Consulting in Newark, said the Legislative Common Agenda is an aggressive plan, but New Jersey is known to be able to work under pressure, and must do so to not leave vulnerable communities behind.
"This transition is bigger than one administration or legislative session, but the foundation built in 2022 can set this state on a path leading to green jobs and efficient technologies," Miller said.
New Jersey LCV plans to keep track of the Murphy administration's progress on additional initiatives via an online scorecard.