NJ Advocates Celebrate IIJA Anniversary, Call on Murphy Administration to Create Strategic Federal Climate Plan for Healthier State

State Commitment Urgent to Make Historic Federal Investments Count for New Jerseyans

On the first anniversary of the federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) being signed into law, New Jersey is still without a strategic plan to maximize historic federal climate investments despite a patchwork of projects across the state.

A broad coalition of groups representing New Jersey’s environmental, business, planning, social justice, conservation, labor, and climate advocacy communities are urging the Murphy administration to do more – faster – to address the state’s unmet sustainability needs.

“A patchwork of projects, no matter how important each is, doesn’t equate to a clear roadmap for how New Jersey will transform itself into a national sustainability leader,” said Renae Reynolds, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “It’s time for our government to wake up and invest funding where its publicly stated goals aspire to see multigenerational improvements.”

Atlantic City officials and advocacy groups are celebrating New Jersey investments to date and issuing a call-to-action for Gov. Phil Murphy and the administration to address unmet needs, especially in environmental justice communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution and vulnerable to extreme weather.

“New Jersey needs to work its plan and plan its work to maximize the opportunities for federal dollars for climate action. A public strategic plan would provide a framework to leverage more federal dollars and match needed state investments,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “Gov. Murphy’s administration should move forward quickly to release a strategic plan so that we don’t lose out to other states – and not meet the clear demand from towns for local clean energy and transportation projects.”

“As the densest state in the nation, New Jersey cannot afford to miss out on federal funds from the new infrastructure law. These dollars could go a long way toward upgrading our aging infrastructure, all while promoting environmental justice and creating good-paying jobs,” said Alex Ambrose, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “State policymakers need to draft a strategic plan on what projects they’d fund — and fast — so we can make the most of this historic federal investment.”

The Atlantic City ($1.5 million) and Bridgeton ($790,000) school districts were awarded a total of seven electric school buses through IIJA funding. More than 46 other NJ districts applied for $61 million to fund more than 200 electric school buses, but were not awarded, demonstrating significant unmet needs and opportunities for public investment.
“Atlantic City shoulders a disproportionate burden from exhaust fumes, which are a major health hazard and can hamper lung development in growing children. This funding represents an opportunity for systematic change in the way New Jersey invests in neighborhoods overburdened by pollution and underserved by clean energy,” said Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick. “This investment will empower everyone’s quality of life on the road to a clean energy economy that promises equity.”

“NJ Transit recently spent more than $140 million to replace buses that were made when flip phones were the norm. In fact, too many of our buses are older than the people riding them to work. We cannot leave money on the table to upgrade our fleet to be clean and electric,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “IIJA funding is critical to modernize our infrastructure, make it more resilient, lower emissions in overburdened communities, and create family-sustaining jobs in a green energy economy. We need New Jersey to use these funds strategically to reduce pollution, modernize our transportation, and importantly, ensure we get every dime we can back to our great state.”

Gov. Murphy in August signed a bill requiring the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to develop and implement a three-year “Electric School Bus Program” that will fund the purchase of buses and charging infrastructure and assess operational issues related to school bus electrification. Only six school districts will receive a total of $45 million over three years. Each year, at least half of the funding will go to low-income, urban, or environmental justice communities to mitigate the disproportionate health impacts of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles on vulnerable populations — but that’s not enough. The pilot must be accelerated, and statewide implementation is critical to address unmet district needs.

“This funding represents a generational opportunity,” said Nikki Baker, Healthy Schools Now Organizer, NJ Work Environment Council. “Public engagement must underpin New Jersey’s investment strategy so residents in overburdened areas can empower change for their children and their neighborhoods for years to come.”

In May, more than 30 organizations called on the Murphy administration to invest federal funding equitably and transparently with opportunities for public input. The coalition also shared its ideas and strategies with the administration to consider. They include: transitioning school, public transit, and government vehicle fleets to zero-emission vehicles; investing funds to electrify bus depots; equitably electrifying the state’s transportation system; prioritizing public charging infrastructure, including in new office, retail, and multi-unit residential developments; dedicating at least 40% of investments in communities overburdened by pollution and underserved by clean energy; and preventing projects that would exacerbate pollution and perpetuate inequities in overburdened communities.

“In addition to coordinated efforts for electrification to reduce harmful emissions, the Murphy administration should utilize this historic federal funding to enhance mobility for all New Jerseyans,” said Kimberley Irby, Policy Manager at New Jersey Future. “Maximizing IIJA and other funds for transit improvements and active transportation, especially in overburdened communities, will be critical to ensure improved public health, affordability, and equity.”

“We’ve never experienced this level of federal climate investment in our lifetimes. We’re urging the Murphy administration to wake up, get in gear, and not lose sight of the opportunity to transform our communities,” said environmental influencer Kristy Drutman, founder of Browngirl Green. “It’s time for the Murphy administration to start prioritizing a strategic funding plan to put New Jersey on a healthier, safer, more economically sustainable path for our future.”

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