Gov. Murphy State of State: We Need to Turn Those Words into Action

Gov. Murphy State of State: We Need to Turn Those Words into Action

Today Governor Phil Murphy gave his second State of the State address to New Jersey. It has been almost two years since the Murphy Administration was sworn in. While there has been some progress during that time, the New Jersey Sierra Club is concerned with the pace of progress and the lack of fulfillments on Murphy’s commitments to the environment.

“The Governor talked about some of his environmental accomplishments but that is what he does, he talks. We need to turn those words into action. The current administration does not get that there is a climate crisis and a sense of urgency in dealing with these issues. Murphy has moved forward on offshore wind, but that progress is undermined by his Energy Master Plan and the failure to put a moratorium on fossil fuel projects. Most of Christie’s rules are still in place that put our state in harm’s way when it comes to climate impacts and many of our cities are dealing with a serious lead crisis,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Governor Murphy is halfway through his term, but he is only halfway through the starting gate when it comes to protecting our clean air, our clean water, and open space. We need progress, not just words.”

New Jersey saw its 10th warmest year on record in 2019, echoing a global trend that has seen sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more common, according to the Rutgers report. In his speech, Governor Murphy stated, we know climate change is real. Instead of denying reality, we’re acting on it. To win the next generation, we’re working to be the first state to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 state education standards. Today, we are on the way to an ambitious goal of 7,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035 – enough to meet half of New Jersey’s entire retail electric needs, remove billions of tons of fossil-fuel pollution from our air, and create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs.”

“Governor Murphy does not get that we are in a climate urgency. We are seeing climate impacts every day with chronic flooding, storm surges, and sea level rise. Governor Murphy has moved forward in offshore wind goals by expanding it to 7500MW but his administration hasn’t changed any rules, regulations, or funding mechanisms to make that happen. but we need to do more,”said Tittel. “Many schools in New Jersey are raising the issue of climate change in their curriculum. This is good, however we need action by the Governor on climate change. We need Murphy to put a moratorium on fossil fuels, we need his administration to regulate carbon and reduce GHG’s.”

In two weeks, Governor Murphy will unveil New Jersey’s new Energy Master Plan, NJ’s comprehensive roadmap for arriving at our goal of a 100-percent clean-energy economy by 2050.

“Governor Murphy’s definition of clean energy is not 100% renewable. The EMP itself is flawed. Murphy’s definition of clean energy includes keeping the nuclear subsidy beyond 2050. The definition also includes incinerators, biogas, biomass, natural gas projects and carbon sequestration. The EMP will not get New Jersey to zero carbon as New York and other states are doing,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy talks a lot about climate change, but other states are running circles around him. Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Inslee are going 100% carbon free by 2040 and by 2030.”

Governor Murphy stated that his administration is working to protect every school and home in New Jersey from the dangers of lead. He applauds Mayor Ras Baraka, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Freeholder President Brendan Gill, and many legislators, for their partnership to fast-track the elimination of lead service lines in the City of Newark. Many cities in New Jersey have serious lead problems in the their drinking water. Lead has also been found in Paterson, Camden, and Morristown.

“Governor Murphy may talk about lead but has not shown any leadership on the crisis. Murphy only signed one bill regarding removing old lead lines. His $500 million plan to mitigate the lead crisis will take years to get the bond act passed and put into place. His administration still have not identified a funding source. DEP still need to adopt the stricter standards for toxic chemicals like lead in our drinking water. The Drinking Water Quality institute hasn’t meet for a year. In some areas of New Jersey, like Newark, private well testing is at 15ppb, this must be lowered. DEP should have been making recommendations for much stricter levels of lead in our drinking water,” said Tittel.

In his speech, Governor Murphy said, “I look forward to our continued partnership to fix NJ TRANSIT. At the end of the day, we still must answer to the commuter whose train was cancelled, or whose bus is over capacity. And, I won’t be happy until we bat 1.000. But, let’s be clear, the series of reforms we are undertaking to change NJ TRANSIT’s fundamental operations, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget investments we have restored, are unquestionably improving things – data clearly shows that cancellations are down and on-time performance is up. In a few weeks, I will be back to present my Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal. I certainly will have more to say about NJ TRANSIT then.”

“NJ Transit still has problems despite that the fact that the Murphy Administration is trying to reform the agency.  NJ Transit is rated the worst in the nation when it comes to breakdowns. Despite all of the pronouncements by Governor Murphy and NJ Transit, the commuter nightmare continues. This is a direct result of funding being slashed by 90 percent in the last 11 years,” said Tittel. “Instead of moving towards electrifying our transportation system, the agency is buying dirty buses and diesel trains. These buses will be driving through environmental justice communities with some of the worst air pollution in the country. NJ Transit should be moving toward 100% electric by 2030, but instead they are planning to purchase gas-guzzling trains and buses that will remain in the fleet for another 20 years.”

The Murphy Administration is still using many Christie-era rules. They need to move forward on strengthening important water protections and regulations including the Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality Management Planning Rules, CAFRA and Wetlands.

 “The Governor didn’t talk about getting rid of Christie era rules. If Governor Murphy is serious about fighting climate change, his administration must strengthen Christie- era rules. He must also increase staffing so that the DEP can actually do their job. New Jersey needs to move forward with a Coastal Commission, DEP need to use the latest science to put climate and sea level rise in their rules. Gov. Murphy can create a cabinet level committee to coordinate all agencies in coastal resiliency and reducing greenhouse gasses. This includes updating all state regulations to include climate impacts, re-doing the Water Supply Master Plan, and using up-to-date data in our mapping and planning,” said Tittel.

Governor Murphy kept some of his environmental and clean energy commitments such as moving us forward on offshore wind, we still need him to do more.

“Governor Murphy needs to put action in the commitments he made when we endorsed him. It has been almost two years, and we are concerned of how much time it will take to see some serious progress when it comes to the environment. Instead of promoting more fossil fuel projects, NJ needs to put a moratorium on fossil fuel projects and focus on renewable energy such as solar and wind. Murphy must reverse Christie’s weakened rules that protect our environment, public health, and safety. Governor Murphy needs to show strong leadership by getting the DEP and other agencies to move on the environment, he can’t afford to wait,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “There has been a lot of talk on environment and not a lot of action when it comes to protecting it. It’s time that Murphy moves forward.”

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