NJ Sierra Club Legislative Priorities- Agenda for 2020
The New Jersey Sierra Club have comprised of a list of legislative priorities for the new year. Topics include 100% renewable and zero carbon goals, electric buses, pushing for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, recycling objectives, fixing New Jersey’s water infrastructure, and more.
“Given that New Jersey has some of the worst environmental problems in the country, we need to move forward with a bold and aggressive plan for the legislature and the governor. Climate change is here and its impacts are getting worse and happening faster rate. Given the new Rutgers, DEP report on sea level rise and climate change, we need to have a sense of urgency. Sea level is rising, and flooding has become the norm. Our state is infiltrated with Superfund and toxic sites whose hazardous chemicals are impacting our clean air and clean water. Our water infrastructure continues to crumble while our own state agency has yet to adopt strict standards for hazardous chemicals like lead,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey needs to move forward on becoming cleaner and much greener for our generation and generations to come.”
NJSC Legislative Priorities- Agenda 2020:
- Zero carbon by 2050
- 100% Renewable by 2035
- Community Solar, Getting Rid of Cost Cap
- Moratorium on Fossil Fuels
- EV Legislation | Electric buses & Trucks bill
- Bomb Train Safety Bill
- Ban on Single Use Plastic/Bottle Bill
- NJ Green New Deal
- More Funding for Urban & State parks
- Environment Justice Legislation
- Create Coastal Commission
- Fix Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA)
- Stronger Beach Access Law
- Removing Lead from our water
- Require DWQI to meet/ set standards
- A5033(Pinkin)- Prevent Backsliding to certain state environmental regulations
- Chlorpyrifos Ban
- Bear Management
100% Renewable by 2035 | Zero Carbon by 2050 | Moratorium on Fossil Fuels (SCR197)
Climate change is happening and happening even faster. UN Climate Report warns of a global tipping point by 2030 so it is even more important to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as we can. Our state has the ability to regulate greenhouse gasses but has yet to do so. If the DEP were to begin regulating, including a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, we could prevent making climate impacts worse.
“In order to fight climate change be reducing greenhouse gasses, we must take bold action against fossil fuels. That is why Governor Murphy must put in place a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects. There are over a dozen fossil fuel projects proposed in New Jersey that would increase GHGs by over 32%. We need to be focusing on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, that does not release harmful pollution that exacerbate the effects of climate change,” 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. Eight states are going 100% renewable by 2050, even states with Republican governors like Maryland, Vermont, and Mass. are moving quicker on electric vehicles and regulating CO2. In order for New Jersey to combat climate change, we need to mirror these goals of 100% renewable energy by 2035 and zero carbon by 2050.”
Electric Vehicle Legislation | Electric Buses & Trucks
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. New Jersey needs to be moving forward on electrifying our transportation to reduce costs and help our lungs.
“We have been fighting to get electric vehicles on the road in New Jersey for 20 years. Passing a comprehensive bill that will provide efficient funding mechanisms for rebates, move forward on electrifying NJ Transit, and create a comprehensive program to achieve getting 2 million EV’s on the road by 2035 is critical. We need to jumpstart electric by implementing a successful electric vehicle system in New Jersey will mean less money sent out of state for petroleum, more in-state jobs, less carbon pollution, and cleaner, healthier air. New Jersey’s biggest source of air pollution is from cars and trucks, but our state has been gridlocked when it comes to moving forward with electric vehicles,” said Tittel.
“One hundred transportation systems are buying electric buses, but not NJ Transit. We should be moving forward on electrifying our transit systems like San Francisco and other cities. Electric buses and trains are 70% cheaper to operate, and would help move New Jersey toward 100% clean energy by 2050. This money should be used to help electrify our transportation system to help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and save taxpayers money,” said Tittel.
Environmental Justice | Community Solar | Getting Rid of Cost Cap
“Environmental Justice language needs to be much stronger in legislation and more importantly, the Energy Master Plan. Communities in New Jersey continue to choke on the emissions and are seeing more asthma and health impacts because of air pollution. That is why it is critical that EJ should be included in all of the program areas of energy legislation to reduce harmful air pollution in areas that have received a disproportionate amount,” said Tittel.
“Community solar is important for our environment and economy because it allows any ratepayer to subscribe to an off-site solar installation. This allows people who are unable to install solar panels on their own property benefit from solar energy. Towns or non-profits could qualify as well, helping whole areas go off the grid, saving money and reducing air pollution. For years, New Jersey has been blocking it from happening and now that it finally is, we need to do it right. We should be creating a full community solar program such as the ones in Massachusetts or Maryland, so we can advance solar power for everyone in this state,” said Tittel.
We are heading into a crisis for solar energy. We need to do something about the cost cap before the cap is exceeded and the solar program end. We should be completely getting rid of the cap. We don’t have caps on energy from coal, nuclear, oil, or gas. Having a cap on solar energy makes no sense. We also have to factor in legacy SRECs as well as transition SRECs. Our concern is that even with this change in the law it will not allow us to have a robust solar program,” said Tittel. “
Bomb Train Safety – Bakken Crude Oil & LNG
Bakken trains are unsafe and still a threat to New Jersey. Previous Bakken train derailments have led to train cars setting on fire, homes being destroyed, forced evacuations of entire towns, threatened water supplies, and human casualties. PHMSA has recently approved a Special Permit to Energy Transfer Solutions LLC, a New Fortress subsidiary. New Fortress is looking to build an LNG facility in Gibbstown, NJ. The permit requests authorization for transportation of liquefied natural gas (methane, refrigerated liquid) by rail tank car.
“Bakken trail derailments and incidents happening across the country raise many concerns regarding the transportation of the dangerous Bakken crude whether by rail, barge, or pipeline through New Jersey. What is even more alarming is PHMSA has approved a permit to allow a rail tank car carrying explosive LNG through our communities and neighborhoods. Granting this special permit to New Fortress’s subsidiary will mean 100s of trains will be coming through our communities and neighborhoods carrying explosive LNG. Some of our train tracks go back before WWI and are not designed to handle this dangerous cargo. The dangers of a possible derailment, spill, or explosion would be catastrophic. This is an accident waiting to happen. We need to stop the federal government and President Trump from allowing that to happen. More importantly, the Murphy Administration and the DRBC need to protect us and stop Delaware River Partner’s LNG facility proposal in Gibbstown,” said Tittel.
Green New Deal
“Climate change impacts are worse and happening faster. New Jersey is seeing more flooding and more health impacts from climate change. Our state is also battling damaging fossil fuel projects like offshore drilling, natural gas power plants, pipelines, and fracking. Enough is enough already. The Green New Deal resolution is the first comprehensive step towards creating policies and programs in place to reduce our climate impact. We need to transition our economy to a greener and cleaner economy,” said Tittel.
Plastic Ban & Bottle Bill
Plastics have become a bigger and bigger problem that affects our environment. Rutgers scientists found densities of about 28,000 to more than 3 million plastic particles per square kilometer in the Passaic and Raritan Rivers. The state legislature had a bill, S2776 (Smith/Greenstein) that prohibited carryout bags made of plastic film, polystyrene foam food service products, and paper bags, and prohibits the offering of single-use plastic straws, however was held in Assembly Environment and Solid Waste committee.
“New Jersey needs a comprehensive plastic ban bill that will protect our environment and public health. Plastics are a menace and an existential threat to our drinking water, beaches, and wildlife. The bill, S2776 (Smith/Greenstein) is important because it would ban polystyrene containers and single-use plastic bags, including fake reusable bags, and would also ban paper bags after a two-year transition period. There is a lot of disagreement over the free reusable bags that the bill would allow stores to give out for two months to help with the transition to no paper or plastic bags. It is unfortunate that the bill was held in Assembly Committee, now the legislature has to start all over in the new year,” said Tittel. “We need to keep fighting to get a strong single use plastic ban bill before our plastic problem gets worse.”
“Every year we pick up 6 million pounds of cans and bottles and other floatables along our roadways. A Bottle Bill is a critical step that provides incentives for people to reduce our bottle waste and increase recycling rates. New Jersey only recycles 50% of cans and bottles while Michigan, with a Bottle Bill, recycles 97%,” said Tittel
Prevent Backsliding to State Environmental Regulations
The bill, A5033 (Pinkin) authorizes DEP rulemaking to prevent backsliding of certain State environmental regulations due to changes in federal law or regulation. Specifically, this bill would amend “The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act,” “Air Pollution Control Act (1954),” the “Water Pollution Control Act,” and the “Safe Drinking Water Act” to authorize the DEP to take certain rulemaking actions to ensure that New Jersey’s rules and regulations aren’t weakened due to changes in the related federal statutes
“The Trump Administration has continuously rolled back critical rules and regulations that protect our clean water, clean air, open space, endangered animals and more. We need to build a green wall around our state to make sure the New Jersey will not succumb to those weakened rollbacks. This legislation is important because it will help keep our state’s standards protected. New Jersey must prevent the federal government from weakening and rolling back environmental regulations that public health. New Jersey must stand up to Trump by making sure to keep strict standards in place,” said Tittel.
“The state legislature and Governor Murphy should be moving to ban chlorpyrifos so that our health, especially our children’s health is protected. Chlorpyrifos was originally created as a nerve agent, and children are particularly vulnerable to its damaging effects,” said Tittel.
Coastal Commission | Fixing CAFRA Rules | Strengthening Public Beach Access Rule
Given climate change and sea level rise, some of the fastest growing places in New Jersey are the most vulnerable. A new study based on data from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows New Jersey with 9 communities among those in the nation with the greatest percentage of homes at risk of chronic flooding by 2060 and 2100. According to a new DEP report, sea-level in New Jersey could rise from 2000 levels by up to 1.1 feet by 2030, 2.1 feet by 2050, and 6.3 feet by 2100, underscoring the urgency of the Murphy Administration’s adaptation work to make the state more resilient to the effects of climate change.
“Climate impacts are getting worse but what is even more alarming is that the Murphy Administration show no sense of urgency to strengthen mitigation programs that will protect this state from climate change, or even the next storm. The new DEP report shows the worst case scenario sea level projections at 6.3 feet by 2100. The Barrier Island are only 2 feet high, which puts them underwater. The Meadowlands would be underwater and so would the Newark Liberty National Airport, causing devastating impacts to our state. Instead of action, the state is still building in flood prone areas, they have failed to fix CAFRA rules, and are proposing to build a sewer plant in Fortescue,” said Tittel. “We must start taking real actions to fight climate change now. We are still the only state in the region without a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plan. We need to move forward with a Coastal Commission, DEP need to also use the latest science to put climate and sea level rise in their rules.”
Governor Murphy recently signed a law concerning public access to certain public trust lands (PL.2019 c.81). The law codifies the public’s rights under the Public Trust Doctrine to use and enjoy the State’s tidal waters and adjacent shorelines.
“People of New Jersey have a right to beaches and waterfront that belong to them. But those rights are too often violated by towns in NJ. Towns are denying people from getting to their beaches by failing to provide things like bathrooms and parking lots. We are concerned the rules in the law can be subject to challenge by towns who want to keep us out. Towns like Deal, Avalon, and Long Beach Township can sue because of the ambiguous language in the bill. They will be able to win and block public access to its waterfront and beaches. Towns that have been denying access or making it difficult for people to access beaches will continue to do so,” said Tittel. “Too many communities want our money, but they don’t want us on their beaches. We need to make sure that DEP require towns to not only provide public access to their beaches, but amenities like bathrooms and a parking lot.”
Protecting Our Drinking Water – Lead Legislation | Mandate DWQI to Meet
“There are too many problems in New Jersey from one county to the next. Whether it is PFOAs, volatile organic chemicals, cyanobacteria in our reservoirs, or lead. For too long, New Jersey has failed to adequately protect its drinking water and is putting the public at risk. Our Water Supply Master Plan is still outdated, and DEP have yet to adopt strict standards for hazardous chemicals in our drinking water. It’s been 2 years after the law was implemented, now the state must do an assessment with the DEP on all of our different water systems. We need to assess and identify any problems,” said Tittel. “We need a minimum of $2.3 to 8 billion statewide to fix our lead problem. We cannot settle for smaller Poland Spring measures that do not do enough to reduce these dangerously high lead levels. We need to protect our most precious resource, which is our children.”
The DWQI is responsible for setting the standards of acceptable limits for toxins and carcinogens in our drinking water. They look at health-based risk assessments to ensure that the water we drink is safe. Many of the chemicals they deal with can be linked to birth defects, childhood development problems, cancers, and other serious health complications.
“New Jersey has a serious problem with toxic chemicals in our drinking water. Some places in the state are at a crisis level, yet the agency that is supposed to set standards and protect public health has not met in almost a year. What makes this worse is that the DWQI did not meet for five years under Christie, and now the Murphy Administration has delayed setting a meeting for almost a year. The Murphy Administration made a commitment to move forward, but almost a year has passed since the last Institute meeting and no drinking water standards have been set or amended. Water quality standards for dangerous chemicals like PFOAs, PFOs, lead, 1,2,3- TCP, need to be adopted,” said Tittel.
Funding for Urban Parks
“For years state parks and parks in urban areas have been significantly underfunded. It is critical that the Murphy Administration and the state legislature find a more equitable way to fund our parks and open spaces. Fast-growing places like Jersey City and New Brunswick need more funding for their parks. We need money to open new parks and plant trees and restore natural habitats in the parks we have. We need more money for capital improvements in all of our parks. That will require a more stable source of funding. There are 17 million people a year visiting parks in New Jersey, generating $4 billion in tourism revenue. That’s why we need to invest more,” said Tittel.
The 2019 NJ Black Bear hunt has killed 302 bears so far. According to the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bear Activity Report, bear sightings and nuisance numbers have dropped in 2019 compared to 2018. There was a 12.5% drop in Damage & Nuisance cases. From January 1 through September 21st of 2019 there were 139 sightings and 103 nuisance cases. In 2018, there were 180 sightings and 703 damage and nuisance cases. These numbers are much lower compared to reports from 2010 where there were 970 sightings and 2,065 damage and nuisance cases, where 742 were nuisance cases.
“The bear hunt was initiated initially to get rid of aggressive and nuisance bears and the numbers show that they have dropped. There’s no reason to be killing the same number of bears this year. New Jersey needs to transition from hunting to a real a real management plan, one that includes strong education and uses warning signs in the region, education materials at trail heads, enforcing not feeding bears, and garbage management. There needs to be warning signs in bear country with post at all trail heads with Do’s and Don’ts in bear country,” said Tittel. “We also need to teach people how to bear-proof their property, including the importance of having no garbage at night and bear proof containers. These will do a lot more in managing the bear population than having an unnecessary hunt.”
“If Governor Murphy really wants to be the greenest governor, then he needs to enforce these priorities. The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental organizations in the country. In New Jersey we have been the forefront in helping to create the Global Warming Response Act, Highlands Act, Spill Act, and more so that the next generation will have clean water to drink, clean air to breath, and open space. Other environmental organizations have come later, however we have always been effective in getting things done. We have fought for environmental landmark bills to get passed and we will keep on fighting to get critical environmental legislation passed,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.