Grassroots Clean Energy Campaigns Ramp Up in Five Towns
Community choice renewable energy programs are expanding across New Jersey
Food & Water Watch is launching new petition campaigns in five cities and towns to help create community choice aggregation programs, marking a notable expansion of the group’s ongoing work to move the state off dirty energy.
The simultaneous petition drives in Woodbridge, North Brunswick, Cherry Hill, Teaneck and Long Branch are part of the group’s years-long campaign to build local support for moving off fossil fuels and onto 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030. The campaign is backed by a broad coalition of environmental, social justice and grassroots community groups across the state.
“I believe in the power of grassroots activism and local solutions. We have the ability to transition Teaneck’s power from fossil fuels to renewable sources,” said State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “It’s in our hands to decide if our community will be sustainable or not. I encourage my friends and neighbors to join me.”
The grassroots campaigns are based on state laws that give residents of more than half of New Jersey municipalities the power to directly petition local governments to consider a specific ordinance. Once presented with that ordinance, a governing body can either pass it as presented, or put the question to voters to decide.
In each municipality, organizers and residents will work together to collect the signatures necessary to have local councils vote on the ordinance.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Teaneck voters to bring a 100% renewable energy CCA program to our community. While our Environmental Commission supported CCA, the Teaneck Township Council refused to adopt an ordinance, “said Paula Rogovin, Teaneck resident of 38 years. “So we’re asking youth and people of all ages to reach out to get Teaneck voters to sign a petition to put a referendum on the ballot in November. Everyone in Teaneck can participate in the effort to grow renewable energy in our region and to help stop climate change.”
A state law enacted in 2003 (the Government Energy Aggregation Act) has led to the creation of community choice energy programs, which give residents the power to buy electricity in bulk, an arrangement that saves money on residents’ energy bills. A growing number of communities across the country are using them to increase their use of clean, renewable energy.
Food & Water Watch has worked with residents to win similar 100% clean energy programs in Edison, New Brunswick, Collingswood, Asbury Park, Piscataway, East Brunswick, South Brunswick and Red Bank, and has a goal of enacting the policy in 10 addition towns and cities this year to put more than one million New Jersey residents on a path to achieve 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.
“As climate change threatens our vulnerable coastal communities, Red Bank’s future and the future of the Jersey Shore is under siege,” said Red Bank Councilwoman Kate Triggiano. “It is our responsibility as elected officials to protect the environment, and Red Bank’s 100 percent renewable community aggregation program is one way we can be leaders in the fight for a healthy and resilient future.”
“Even while deeply feeling the existential threat of climate change, it’s sometimes hard for citizens to envision a role in reversing it,” said Katie Ingersoll of Collingswood Progressive Democrats. “The campaign for CCA in Collingswood, NJ prompted necessary conversations about direct local action to protect our climate and allowed residents to come together to take a step forward. Now that our leaders have committed to a local CCA program we are excited to see it implemented and work with neighboring towns to grow this opportunity in our region.”
Food & Water Watch, a national advocacy group with an office in New Brunswick, started its CCA advocacy program with a successful petition drive in 2018 that created the first-of-its-kind 100 percent renewable energy program in New Brunswick. Their efforts expanded to Piscataway the following year, where voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to create the program.
“This is a truly grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign that brings real climate action to the local level,” said Food & Water Watch New Jersey State Director Matt Smith. “While we take these actions to build clean energy and clean up climate pollution, we’re also building a stronger democracy by organizing with community members and building popular support for bold solutions to the climate crisis.”