Major environmental group urges NJ NOT to join weak climate pact
Calls for stronger, faster, environmentally just measures
Trenton, NJ — Clean Water Action announced today its opposition to New Jersey joining the proposed multi-state agreement, Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI). Clean Water Action is the first major environmental group in New Jersey to join the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) and Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) in urging the Murphy Administration to reject the pact in favor of mandatory pollution reductions, targeted funding and action on overburdened communities, and more participatory decision-making especially in communities most affected.
“Clean Water Action joins its long standing environmental justice allies in saying ‘No to TCI in NJ’. Given the climate, racial justice, economic, political and public health crises, we cannot afford to be timid. We need big bold solutions that the environmental justice community in New Jersey has been demanding for a long time like mandatory pollution reductions in communities Of Color and low-income communities. We urge Governor Murphy to take this same bold course, one that is just and equitable, one that addresses all five crises at once to build a stronger and better future for New Jersey. We call on other environmental and social justice groups to join us in saying NO to TCI in NJ,” stated Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action.
“TCI to date has been tone deaf at best and racist at worst. Clean Water Action in New Jersey is showing the rest of the environmental movement how to truly stand with frontline communities against false solutions like TCI. The world is on fire and we need bold, visionary solutions that center those most directly impacted to build a just society. We will not settle for half measures that uphold decades of bad policy development in the way TCI has,” stated Maria Lopez Nuñez, Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy, Ironbound Community Corporation.
“TCI is a regressive gas tax wrapped in an unregulated market mechanism. There are more equitable ways to reduce emissions and generate revenue that don’t put frontline communities at risk. Public finance should not trump public health,” stated Melissa Miles, Executive Director, NJ Environmental Justice Alliance.
TCI is a regional collaboration among 12 Northeastern states and the District of Columbia. Each state would tax transportation fuels with the intention of funding programs to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. Essentially, TCI is a carbon trading system that fails to guarantee it will deliver much needed emissions reductions to environmental justice (EJ) communities. Individual states will decide whether to join the program over the next few months. New Jersey’s legislature would also have to give authorization to proceed by the end of 2021.
Clean Water Action, NJEJA and ICC have identified several problems with TCI:
- Fails to mandate pollution reductions. TCI’s reliance on direct and indirect trading is likely to disproportionately impact EJ communities — calling TCI “cap and invest” rather than “cap and trade” doesn’t change that.
- Proceeds are not put in a lock box – There is no guarantee that funds collected will benefit climate initiatives and EJ communities. History is almost certain to repeat itself regardless of who is in office. Billions of dollars of “dedicated” funds have been raided from NJ programs like NJ Transit, Clean Energy, lead mitigation, and more for unintended purposes.
- Commitment to “transparency” and “equity” rings hollow and has, in the past, failed to create a meaningful decision making role for EJ voices.
- Imposes a regressive gas tax fee structure, not a true polluter pay mechanism — Despite recent increases to the gas tax and tolls, the cost will be passed on to those that can least afford a tax hike or an electric car, instead of making companies pay for their pollution and contribution to climate change.
- Better solutions exist. Federal and state regulatory and financial authority is already substantial and more effective.
The state and federal governments should at a minimum:
- Transfer $16 billion of Parkway and Turnpike toll revenue currently slated for unneeded highway expansion to mass transit and “fix it first”.
- Pass federal stimulus and infrastructure programs like the Heroes Act and the Moving America Forward Act
- Restore and expand federal climate and co-pollutant regulatory programs
- Strengthen/accelerate state regulatory mandates to reduce emissions of CO2, black carbon, and methane, especially in EJ communities
- Stop diverting ratepayer dollars from the Clean Energy Fund to the state’s general fund and unnecessarily subsidizing PSE&G with over $300 million per year.
- Implement additional progressive tax policies to create a larger pool of public funds — e.g. estate, corporate business and millionaire’s tax reform, Wall St. transaction fees, etc.
“As a 4th generation Newarker and mother of 3 asthmatic children who lives near the port, I know what it means to live in a community where we can’t breathe,” stated Kim Gaddy, NJ Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action. “We need to end systemic racism in transportation and climate policy, funding and choices made in the Garden State. TCI fails to do that. It’s the definition of insanity — trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. They are paying lip service to us and we are sick and tired of it.”
“New Jersey should stand with those calling for racial justice in our country and create a climate change mitigation policy for mobile sources that focuses on helping environmental justice communities while fighting climate change instead of using a program with a carbon trading system at its core which does not center justice concerns,” said Dr. Nicky Sheets, Esq., Ph. D. of the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance.
“The specific plan on the table in NJ isn’t good enough, and we don’t see any pathway that would make it good enough,” concluded Goldsmith. “That’s why we’re urging fellow advocates and Governor Murphy to say no to TCI in New Jersey.”
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Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. www.cleanwater.org/nj