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NJ’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising despite climate goals, enviro groups say

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in New Jersey have increased nearly 20% in the last four years, thanks to a series of fossil fuel expansion projects approved by the Murphy administration, according to a new report from the environmental coalition Empower NJ.

If seven fossil fuel projects currently pending are approved, annual emissions could increase an additional 38% in the state, according to the analysis. 

EmpowerNJ, comprised of 135 environmental, civic, faith and progressive organizations, says the findings in the report contradict the stated goals of the Murphy administration. Murphy signed GHG reduction and environmental justice executive orders last year, affirming the state’s intent to reduce the burden of fossil fuel burning on communities of color and to lower the state’s GHG emission.

But, EmpowerNJ points out, five of the seven pending fossil fuel projects are cited in low-income communities or in communities of color, and three of them are public projects, over which Murphy has authority.

“Data and science will always unmistakably provide us with the truth, and the numbers and facts stated on this emissions report tell the crude reality of NJ’s current state of affairs,” says Anjuli Ramos-Busot NJ director for the Sierra Club. “Fossil fuels projects keep being developed, greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing, our ability to tackle and mitigate climate change keeps decreasing and the health of our residents keeps being jeopardized.” 

Combined with the six projects already approved, the seven pending projects have the potential to cause up to 57.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year; clearly analogous with the state’s goal of reducing GHG emissions 50% (from 2006 levels) by 2030.

And the issue, as Empower NJ sees it, isn’t just that new fossil fuel projects would effectively prohibit the state from reaching its climate goals—it’s also that the state isn’t doing enough to plan out how it’ll reach its targets. For instance, state building and transportation departments have yet to develop plans to reach GHG reduction benchmarks, despite being required to do so by Murphy’s executive orders.

​​“Transportation creates more than 40% of the GHGs in New Jersey, more than any source. Yet the NJ Department of Transportation and the NJ Turnpike Authority have no plan or strategy to reduce GHGs,” says John Reichman of BlueWaveNJ. “Instead, they are taking us in the opposite direction, such as spending tens of billions of dollars on highway expansions, underfunding public transportation and proceeding with plans to build a gas-fired power plant in the Meadowlands.”

The coalition is calling on the state’s departments to develop plans immediately, and for Murphy to put an end to the seven proposed fossil fuel projects, including fracked gas power plants in Newark and Kearny, expanded pipelines and infrastructure, and a liquefied natural gas export facility in Gloucester County. 

“Communities across the state are facing new polluting pipelines, power plants and other dirty energy projects that threaten to drive New Jersey right off the climate cliff,” says Matt Smith, NJ director of Food & Water Watch. “The governor must act now to protect clean air and water for all New Jerseyans, regardless of zip code, and reject these disastrous and unnecessary projects.”