environment News

Momentum builds to ban and divest from fossil fuel in NJ as state announces new emissions targets

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Nov. 10 new regulations for cutting New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels in half by 2030.

In an executive order, Murphy outlined the new target and directed the state to expand electrification incentives and the purchase of electric transportation vehicles—transportation is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions of any sector in NJ.

The state will invest $13.7 million to electrify busses and trucks in the state, using proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program, a multi-state regional program that puts a cap on carbon dioxide emissions and requires energy producers to buy allowances for their emissions. NJ has used about $71 million in proceeds from the program to purchase electric vehicles and install charge stations around the state, particularly in communities most burdened by poor air quality and pollution. 

The RGGI is one of the most expansive cap-and-trade programs in the country, and while that method of reducing (or at least requiring energy producers to pay for) emissions has its critics, one way to maximize the benefits of it is to partner it with other greenhouse gas reduction regulations and incentives. 

Like the NJZIP program, which the executive order expands to the Jersey Shore area. Already available in Newark, Camden and New Brunswick, businesses and organizations in the newly designated area (Sandy Hook to the Delaware Bay) can now, too, apply for vouchers to offset the cost of purchasing new, zero-emission, medium-duty vehicles. 

The latest round of funding, too, will go toward the purchase of 46 electric school busses to serve a dozen or so communities around the state, as well as three public works trucks in Pleasantville.

The executive order and funding announcements were hailed by some environmental groups. 

“We’re in crisis, in NJ, here in Budd Lake, as well as Manville and Mullica Hill both of which were devastated by Ida, on Long Beach Island, and in my home town of Newark. People are sick, they’re struggling economically. They’re being disrespected — from the pandemic, the challenge to our democracy, racial discrimination, the struggle for a living wage and the climate emergency,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action Environmental Justice Director, at the announcement of the executive order. “The Governor understands we can’t afford incremental change, we can’t be patient, we have to do better not only in NJ, but worldwide. The science tells us that we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and that is what the Governor’s EO will do—otherwise we will face cataclysmic affects to our environment that cannot be reversed.”

But more needs to be done in order to meet the state’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (from 2006 levels) by 2050—like shutting out the possibility of allowing any new fossil fuel projects. 

On Nov. 15, the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee passed a resolution that “urges the Governor to impose an immediate moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure projects until the State adopts rules regulating CO2 and other climate pollutants.”

Matt Smith, NJ director of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, puts the recent developments in context, saying, “Governor Murphy has accelerated our state’s timeline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and launched several high-profile renewable energy projects that will speed the transition to clean power. But these goals can only be meaningful if the state stops approving new dirty energy projects. There are fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations, power plants and export terminals that the Murphy administration must reject if it wants to take a serious approach to climate action and environmental justice.”

Too, divesting the state pension fund—and municipalities and universities divesting their fossil fuel holdings—could amplify the benefits of Murphy’s new goals and programs. Earlier this month, environmentalists held a rally in Montclair to, partly, encourage the divestment of state funds from fossil fuels. New York state has pledged to completely decarbonize its pension fund holdings by 2040, and New York City voted earlier this year to divest $4 billion of pension funds from fossil fuel holdings.