Diving into Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan

Phil Murphy

Sporting a green pocket square in his suit jacket, with a stroke of a pen—or rather, several pens distributed as souvenirs—Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 100 to enact one of the most sweeping green energy initiatives in the country.  Executive Order 100 directs the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to enact a regulatory reform package known as “Protecting Against Climate Threats” or PACT.

“We have not been sitting around wasting precious time,” the governor said.  He cited a number of initiatives and proposals the state has undertaken or plans to undertake to achieve 100% clean energy status for the state by 2050.

“The Energy Master Plan will be a series of steps to generate, use, and manage energy consistent with economic climate and societal demands of our time.”

Describing New Jersey as “ground zero” for the effects of climate change, the Energy Master Plan will be bolstered by PACT.  Murphy said the “unprecedented” package would “draw a line in the sand against climate change.”

Murphy criticized Washington DC and those trying to “prop up a dying coal industry” and said of those places “where the cry is ‘drill, baby, drill’” were “ignorant of both science and reality.”

Some fourteen entities expressed their support for the Board of Public Utilities’ Energy Master Plan: ATNJ Education Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, ISLES, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, NJ League of Conservation Voters, NJ Sustainable Business Council, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, ReThink Energy NJ, The Nature Conservancy NJ Chapter, The Watershed Institute, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Governor Murphy described the master plan as an “Undertaking nothing less than a complete transformation of our energy policy” and that “Together, the new master plan and executive order will propel NJ into a clean energy future to grow our economy as it powers our economy.”

Murphy said that the he wants New Jersey to be leading the charge on research and development for clean energy and policy, that the Energy Master Plan was a 290 page document “deeply researched” with “enormous stakeholder engagement.”

The Office of the Governor said, “The Energy Master Plan defines 100 percent clean energy by 2050 as 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity generation and maximum electrification of the transportation and building sectors, which are the greatest carbon emission producing sectors in the state, to meet or exceed the GWRA mandates. The Energy Master Plan is the first of a series of monumental steps to ensure that New Jersey generates, uses, and manages its energy supply in a way that is consistent with economic, climate, and societal demands.”

Among the PACT regulations were the those which established a greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting program to monitor the reduction of emissions, new regulations under the Air Pollution Control Act to establish criteria that would reduce CO2 and “short-lived climate pollutants”, and reforms to land use regulations to take climate change effects into consideration with respect to planning and community development.

Seven strategies for achieving the governor’s goals were outlined, affecting the energy consumption and emissions from the transportation section, distribution and acceleration of renewable energy resources, maximizing energy utility efficiency, reducing energy consumption and emissions from buildings while establishing a “decarbonization roadmap”, the establishment of Integrated Distribution Plans to modernize the state’s energy system, to support clean energy in underserved municipalities, and to “expand the clean energy innovation economy.”

Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso thanked the governor, calling him the “greenest” governor in the country, and said, “We are entering this new decade prepared to tackle the challenges we face; the Energy Master Plan shows us the steps we must take to responsibly and strategically reach our clean energy and emissions reduction goals. In the process, we’ll create new long-term jobs and a framework for integrating sophisticated renewable energy technologies that move us toward our goal of realizing a cleaner, safer planet.”

DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe spoke afterwards and thanked Murphy.  McCabe said, “In the absence of true federal leadership on climate change, New Jersey is taking the lead with one of the most comprehensive climate regulatory reform efforts in the country. This reform, PACT, is a pact with the residents of New Jersey to protect our property, infrastructure and quality of life by making climate resilience a primary consideration for DEP permits and approvals. It is also a pact across generations to reduce emissions that fuel climate damage so that our children and grandchildren may too thrive and enjoy our great state.”

McCabe cited New Jersey’s “long coastline” as an area threatened by rising sea levels from the effects of climate change.  “NJPACT will complement the work we do with the master plan by making a comprehensive shift to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take into account rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.  We must make smart strategic changes now to be prepared for what is coming our way.”

Senator Anthony Bucco released a statement criticizing the Master Plan, saying it would put a burden on residents who use natural gas.  “While Governor Murphy’s energy plan may earn him pats on the back from other liberal millionaires,” Bucco said, “it’s nothing more than a tax that will drive up gas and electric bills of hard-working New Jerseyans who are already at the limit of what they can afford.  It’s another example of the governor not understanding the extreme cost of implementing a far-left progressive agenda. Instead of offering relief that people are seeking, he’s promising higher energy bills that will drive the outmigration of more families and businesses from New Jersey.”  Bucco also said that New Jersey already has among the lowest “per capita emission rates of any state in America.”

Chemistry Council of New Jersey Executive Director Dennis Hart responded to the Energy Master Plan, saying the council “commends the Murphy Administration for once again reviewing the state’s Energy Master Plan and for not placing a moratorium on specific energy sources. To meet our state’s economic and environmental goals, CCNJ supports a comprehensive energy strategy that promotes and leverages all energy sources including natural gas, while also promoting energy efficiency and alternative sources, such as energy recovery.”

Hart further added that, “New Jersey’s industrial energy rates are still some of the highest in the nation, about 45% above the national average. As large energy users, the state’s energy policies are of critical importance to our members.  While we applaud the Murphy Administration’s ambitious goals, it is imperative that affordable and reliable energy be at the forefront of the state’s Energy Master Plan. New Jersey’s energy policy must adequately address and take into full consideration the cost of energy and overall ratepayer impact. We look forward to reviewing the administration’s financial impact report on the proposed plan.”

Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon praised the Energy Master Plan.  “As we continue to experience setbacks on the issue of climate change due to federal inaction, securing a sustainable environmental future for our residents has never been more important.  I thank Governor Murphy and the Administration for their efforts in developing a comprehensive and strategic environmental plan for New Jersey. By signing Executive Order No. 100, the Governor has initiated an impactful course of regulatory reform that will help get New Jersey on track to achieving its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”

New Jersey Business & Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor expressed his thoughts about the “ambitious” plans, saying that while the goals were “laudable” they had concerns about cost impacts to businesses without a “ratepayer impact study” being conducted.  Like Senator Bucco, Cantor discussed natural gas.  “…we question the feasibility and reliability of a rushed abandonment of the use of natural gas, an energy source that heats more than 75% of New Jersey’s homes and businesses, and generates more than 50% of our electricity.  Limiting access to the least expensive and most reliable and abundant source of energy we have will add to New Jersey’s affordability crisis and dramatically increase costs for our already overburdened residents and job creators.

Cantor also seemed to doubt whether or not the initiative would be effective in cutting carbon.  “We also have great concerns that the Executive Order announced today as part of the EMP will have a direct, negative impact on manufacturing and industry in the state – without any significant carbon reductions.”

“It’s great the Governor Murphy just committed to regulating greenhouse gases to combat the climate emergency, because the science dictates we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030,” said Amy Goldsmith, State Director of Clean Water Action NJ. “BPU has been working overtime the past 2 years churning out action after action on energy efficiency, offshore wind and solar. Now it’s DEP’s turn to do the same, churning out action after action – regulating greenhouse gases especially short-lived climate pollutants like methane and black carbon, updating land use and water rules, and stopping polluters from trading killer smog-creating ozone or expanding frack gas infrastructure.”

The NJ Utilities Association said they are ‘glad to see the EMP reflects an understanding of the need to work in “lockstep” with utilities in implementing its proposals.’

The Sierra Club said the plan has ‘many admirable goals’ but falls short on numerous aspects, including renewable energy.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli blasted the plan, saying not only is it ‘unrealistic, but like his other policy proposals, it will drive up costs on families, retirees and small businesses, and worsen a state economy that is already dead last or next to last in job growth, wage growth and fiscal health.’

From the Governor’s Office release on the EMP:

The Energy Master Plan outlines the following seven key strategies and includes an implementation plan that lays out next steps and timelines:

Strategy 1: Reducing Energy Consumption and Emissions from the Transportation Sector, including encouraging electric vehicle adoption, electrifying transportation systems, and leveraging technology to reduce emissions and miles traveled.

Strategy 2: Accelerating Deployment of Renewable Energy and Distributed Energy Resources by developing offshore wind, community solar, a successor solar incentive program, solar thermal, and energy storage. It also involves adopting new market structures to embrace clean energy development and contain costs, opening electric distribution companies’ circuits for distributed energy resources (DER), and developing low-cost loans or financing for DER.

Strategy 3: Maximizing Energy Efficiency and Conservation, and Reducing Peak Demand including enacting 0.75 percent and 2 percent utility energy efficiency standards for natural gas and electricity, respectively, improving energy efficiency programs in New Jersey, adopting new clean energy and energy efficiency financing mechanisms, and strengthening building and energy codes and appliance standards.

Strategy 4: Reducing Energy Consumption and Emissions from the Building Sector through decarbonization and electrification of new and existing buildings, including the expansion of statewide net zero carbon homes incentive programs, the development of EV-ready and Demand Response-ready building codes, and the establishment of a long-term building decarbonization roadmap.

Strategy 5: Decarbonizing and Modernizing New Jersey’s Energy System through planning and establishment of Integrated Distribution Plans, investing in grid technology to enable increased communication, sophisticated rate design, and reducing our reliance on natural gas.

Strategy 6: Supporting Community Energy Planning and Action in Underserved Communities through incentivizing local, clean power generation, prioritizing clean transportation options in these communities, and supporting municipalities in establishing community energy plans. 

Strategy 7: Expand the Clean Energy Innovation Economy by expanding upon New Jersey’s existing 52,000 clean energy jobs and investing in developing clean energy knowledge, services, and products that can be exported to other regions around the country and around the world, thereby driving investments and growing jobs. New Jersey will attract supply chain businesses to create dynamic new clean energy industry clusters and bring cutting-edge clean energy research and development the state.

To support the strategies identified in the Energy Master Plan, Executive Order No. 100 directs the DEP to adopt, within two years, regulatory reforms to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Known as PACT, the sweeping suite of climate change regulations include:

  • Establishing a greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting program to identify all significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants, and monitor the progress of emission reductions to reach the target of 80 percent below 2006 emission levels by 2050 required under GWRA;
  • Adopting new regulations under the Air Pollution Control Act establishing criteria to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and short-lived climate pollutants; and,
  • Reforming environmental land use regulations to incorporate climate change considerations into permitting decisions, which will allow better planning and building resilient communities by avoiding flood-prone areas, reestablishing chronically inundated wetlands, revegetating riparian areas, and encouraging green building and green infrastructure.

The regulations will ensure that DEP-permitted projects throughout New Jersey prioritize reducing greenhouse gas and other climate pollutant emissions, lessening climate impacts, and ensuring resilience. To implement the executive order, DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe issued Administrative Order 2020-01 detailing the PACT reforms and setting deadlines for DEP to adopt these progressive climate rules within the next two years, and sooner in many instances.

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