Sierra Club: Murphy’s Budget Does Not Address the Environment
Murphy’s Budget Does Not Address the Environment
Today Governor Murphy released his budget FY2021. In his address, he mentioned that coronavirus has worsened health disparities in the state. Murphy also mentioned that New Jersey is strengthening its commitment to a clean energy future. The address did not highlight specific numbers or details on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection budget or if cuts will be made to environmental programs like the Clean Energy Fund. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:
“In his budget address, Governor Murphy talked a lot about COVID and its impact on NJ, especially to minority communities. However, he failed to mention the connection between overburdened and minority communities and high rates of air pollution and COVID cases, as mentioned in a Harvard study and other studies. His address lacked a real layout on initiatives for climate change action, such as working to pass and sign Environmental Justice legislation that would help communities who are suffering with a disproportionate amount of pollution.
“The Governor did not really talk about the environment, he talked about clean energy. He emphasized his commitment to clean energy but that is just hot air because his budget FY2021 has cut funding for the Clean Energy Fund. In order to move forward on clean energy and EV’s we cannot keep raiding money from critical energy programs. Instead, New Jersey must accelerate on building the EV infrastructure, converting its fleet to electric, building a state-wide network of charging stations, create green jobs, and reduce air pollution. More importantly, we need to make sure that charging networks and incentives are targeted to communities that have received a disproportionate share of pollution, especially Environmental Justice communities.
“There is a $1.2 billion in cuts FY2021 budget. We have not seen the budget yet and are concerned that DEP funding will be cut once again. DEP has been cut for the last 10 years and people have not been able to do their jobs. Taking this money away will lead to potential furloughs and layoffs. This means that there won’t be people to make sure that toxic sites get cleaned up, our parks stay open, and our air is clean and water is pure. The DEP needs more funding so that we have enough people to do the many jobs of the agency. Cutting staff to keep our parks open is a slippery slope to privatization. We used to have over 1,000 DEP park staff, and now they’re under 300. DEP staff levels have already dropped by 57% since the mid-1990s. Cutting park funding is an excuse to privatize and give away NJ’s treasured assets to private companies. New Jersey already has closed 2 state parks and 3 wildlife management areas, and it will only get worse if we don’t get more funding.
“In order to protect our clean air, drinking water, and food, we need proper funding for those programs. We need to make sure that hazardous sites are still being cleaned up, lead is our water is being removed, and sewage waste is properly managed. We need funding for programs that protect our food, our air, our water, and help clean up toxic sites across the state. This is especially important for people who have asthma or have a respiratory illness. New Jersey needs to also have proper funding for the Hazardous Discharge Fund and Hazardous Discharge Spill Act. This is money that goes toward brownfields cleanup and to urban areas for pollution cleanup. FY2021, money has been taken away from the Lead Abatement Fund that works to get rid of lead in drinking water, this is an essential service that should not be cut.
“Murphy didn’t really talk about the other pandemic, climate change. New Jersey needs to update their rules to deal with climate change. We need to update rules on resiliency, mitigation, and adaptation. We need to fund clean energy projects and mass transit that will help New Jersey create more jobs while reducing climate impacts. Moving forward with electric buses, offshore wind, and solar will help stimulate our economy. Expanding clean energy, mass transit, and getting lead out of our pipes will create jobs while moving our economy forward in an environmentally-sound way. We understand the need to fill the budget gaps, but we cannot keep using environmental programs to fill those gaps. We need to be investing in the environment because that is an investment in ourselves and our future.”