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Sierra Club: Climate EO is Vague & Misses the Mark on Real Action

Climate EO is Vague & Misses the Mark on Real Action

Governor Murphy recently signed an Executive Order No. 100 directing the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) to make regulatory reforms, known as Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT), to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Some of the regulatory actions of PACT include: Deliver the Global Warming Response Act Report recommending regulatory measures to reduce GHGs and short-lived climate pollutants, Establish GHG monitoring and reporting program, Establish new regulations to govern and aggressively reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, Establish new regulations to govern aggressively reduce short-lived climate pollutants, Issue Sea Level Rise Guidance, Reform suite of environmental land use rules to incorporate climate change considerations, Reform  Guidelines for Environmental Impact Statement/Assessment for Public Projects. When Governor Murphy held the press event yesterday, the administration only had talking points on EO 100. Now that the entire EO has now become available, the Sierra Club has been able to read it and make their analysis.

“Governor Murphy came out with a big slash with an EO on climate change, however it has more fluff than action. The EO mentions the IPCC report but does not require the state to reach 45% reductions by 2030. The EO talks about sea level rise in New Jersey, but there is no mention to require DEP to update their maps to deal with sea level rise. The EO mentions chronic flooding, but there is no mandate to DEP to create a climate adaptation and mitigation plan. The EO includes climate reports based on science but failed to require that science into DEP regulation. It is pretty vague, there is little direction on meeting its outlined like EJ goals, and the EO lacks details to change any laws or close loophole like in CAFRA,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Murphy’s EO has less specificity than his talking points when he signed it. Our concern is that this is just another EO, Ee i ee i o. There is not enough substance to it and fails to cite legal authority on reachable standards.”

One of the regulatory actions of PACT is to establish GHG monitoring and reporting program to identify all significant sources of climate pollutants statewide; (2) monitor progress toward the 2050 goal and any interim limits established; and (3) inform further actions necessary to reduce emissions of climate pollutants with adoption by June 2021. Establish new regulations to govern and aggressively reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, adoption: January 2022 or sooner, as appropriate.

“The goal of regulating carbon, GHG’s, black carbon, and methane is something DEP can do now, they don’t need to wait 2 years to do it.  We are also concerned that the EO does not say what the criteria for reductions or standards will be. It involves benchmarks on the Global Warming Response Act, which is something DEP can do now. DEP could set a carbon standard like EPA has that will allow natural gas and power plants. Even though the whereas section of the EO mentions IPPC, it is not reflected where it matters, there is no mention of reductions of 45% by 2030,” said Tittel. The only law it the EO mentions is the GWRA. It does not mention enforced Pollution Control Act or Title V.”

The EO will look to integrate climate change considerations, such as sea level rise, into its regulatory and permitting programs, including but not limited to, land use permitting, water supply, stormwater and wastewater permitting and planning, air quality, and solid waste and site remediation permitting.

“The EO doesn’t mention what rules that they want to update on climate change. The order lays out changes to different permitting programs however fails to mention the laws that need to be changed to allow this.  It fails to reverse Christie- era rules. We are still using Christie-era rules like the Flood Hazard Rules, Waiver Rules, Stormwater Rules, and CAFRA rules that encourage development and cause more flooding and pollution. The DEP need to strengthen these rules and close CAFRA loopholes in order for the regulatory action to be effective,” said Tittel. “The EO does not include updates to EO 215 that requires an EIS on state projects or state funded projects on climate.”

Within 30 days of the date of this Order, the DEP Commissioner shall issue an administrative order, to be updated from time to time, that identifies the DEP regulations that the Department plans to update in order to integrate climate change considerations in accordance with Paragraph 1(c) of this Order.

“Section 2 of Executive Order 100 gives the DEP Commissioner too much discretion to pick and choose.  The will be able to decide which rules to update and which rules not to update, which the standards to included and what to leave out. There are also no standards or guidance on what the outcome should be and how to get to it,” said Tittel.  

In 1989, Governor Tom Kean issued Executive Order No. 219, similar to Governor Murphy’s EO No. 100. EO looked to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change, mandate DEP to investigate regulatory controls and make recommendations through regulatory or legislative action. Unfortunately the Governor Kean’s EO  was never implemented.

“Governor Kean issued a similar EO to Governor Murphy’s toward the end of his administration, however it was never implemented. Kean’s EO was actually stronger however is an example of what can happen to this type of plan. Executive Orders are much different than rules and laws. The timeline of 2 years for EO 100 is very concerning, especially since we are still waiting on rules and standards on Murphy’s EO 23 on Environment Justice,” said Tittel.

Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 100 was signed on January 28, 2020 and shall be taken into effect immediately.

“The 2 year timeline to implement Murphy’s EO is too long. While the administration goes through stakeholder meetings, fossil fuel projects like the LNG port and the SRL pipeline will continue to move forward. That is why we need a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects. DEP already have the authority to regulator GHG’s, they don’t need to wait 2 year to do it,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are in a climate emergency and unfortunately Governor Murphy’s EO is too little too late. It laid out the critical environmental issues New Jersey is experiencing but will not dig us out of that hole.”

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