Sierra Club: The Real State of the BPU and What They Need to Do

The Real State of the BPU and What They Need to Do

Dirty energy projects can’t be held to a lesser standard

Trenton, NJ – The Empower NJ: No New Fossil Fuel Projects Coalition emphasized in anticipation of today’s State of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) address any 2018 progress will be trumped by pending 2019 decisions that will show just how serious or not the Murphy Administration is in meeting its commitments, most notably 100% clean energy by 2050.

BPU has a lot on its plate right now. While the department has made progress, there are several issues that BPU needs to fix and move forward on. The 70 plus environmental, citizen, and faith groups that comprise Empower NJ have pointed out Governor Murphy’s 100% renewable goals by promoting clean energy and energy efficiency and moving away from fossil fuels cannot be met with the dozen plus major frack gas power plants, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects threatening all ends of New Jersey.

“After 8 years of Christie, BPU is trying to move forward on getting to 100% renewable by 2050. However, there are things on the horizon that will undermine those goals. New Jersey is being threatened by power plants, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure at all ends of the state. We need a moratorium on new natural projects, if we really want to move towards clean energy and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The people of New Jersey are ready for renewables and eager to work towards the goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. We need an EMP that supports this goal by promoting clean energy such as solar and wind and moving away from fossil fuels,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Empower NJ noted progress made on offshore wind is being offset by regress on solar, unwarranted rate hikes for utilities, raids on the Clean Energy Fund, and approvals for new frack gas projects.

BPU has received applications for its solicitation for 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind. Orsted, a Danish offshore wind company, Equinor, a Norway-based energy company, and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind have submitted bids to build offshore wind off our coast so far. However at the same time, New Jersey has fallen behind other states when it comes to solar energy and solar energy jobs. The current solar program will eat up almost all the cap, preventing us from meeting those Renewable Portfolio Standard goals. If we don’t fix the problems with this cap within the next years, the solar market in NJ will collapse.

 

“We are avid supporters of a clean, renewable energy future for New Jersey, which the Murphy Administration has rallied around. But New Jersey remains under the climate gun from the carbon impact from a dozen proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “To hit our climate goals, we need the Murphy Administration to both rapidly expand clean, renewable energy and place a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. State agencies need to look at the cumulative impacts of these fossil fuel projects, and carbon pollution needs to be at the forefront of any final permitting decision.”

In order to fund renewable energy projects and programs for solar and wind, BPU cannot keep spending billions of dollars on PSEG’s Energy Programs. New Jersey’s laundry list of subsidies for PSEG includes, $14 billion for Energy Strong, new gas pipelines, replacing old gas pipelines, resiliency, AMI, energy storage, and net metering. This also includes $1 billion for nuclear subsidies.

“Reality requires bold climate action right now, not incremental steps in the right direction. Simply doing better than the Christie administration isn’t going to cut it. If Governor Murphy wants to live up to his own rhetoric on protecting our climate and promoting clean energy, he must block all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are threatening clean air and water in communities across New Jersey,” said Matt Smith, Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch.

The Clean Energy Fund has been raided by $1.5 billion over the last 10 years. $87.1 million will be taken from the Clean Energy Fund. However this number is tentative and may change in the final budget. The Murphy Administration cannot have an effective Energy Master Plan if there aren’t any funds for programs for essential initiatives such as energy efficiency and weatherization. New Jersey has yet to spend the $72 million from the Volkswagen settlement fund. New York and other states have already started spending that money. The biggest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state comes from automobiles, which is why New Jersey needs to increase electric vehicles to clean our air.

“It is essential that New Jersey implement a plan through the BPU to turn the state away from fossil fuel projects by incentivizing projects that develop renewable energy, clean up our air and water, and end new fossil fuel projects. The BPU’s mission includes promoting responsible growth and clean renewable energy sources in their role of providing utility services. To fulfill that role, we call on the Board to replace the dirty, finite and costly fossil fuel sources that are currently underway in New Jersey with solar, wind, energy efficiency and conservation so that all communities will benefit and green jobs can proliferate,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Of the 13 proposed fossil fuel projects, the Murphy Administration has not taken effective action to block or stop any of these projects.  If built, these new projects would increase CO2 and GHG emissions by approximately 32 million metric tons per year or about 32%. The five proposed powerplants, including the Meadowlands powerplant, would increase CO2e emissions from electricity generation by approximately 76% if built. Proposed natural gas pipelines like the SRL pipeline have already started construction despite still being in ongoing litigation. The Murphy Administration and BPU can rescind New Jersey’s approval, which would put a stay on the SRL pipeline. The pipeline proposed by New Jersey Natural Gas would cut 28 miles across environmentally sensitive areas of the Pinelands.

“The Murphy Administration has not taken effective action to block or stop any of 12 new fossil fuel projects (some of which are already under construction).  If built, these new projects (along with a new power plant built last year) would increase greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 32 million metric tons per year, an increase of about 32% in total NJ GHG emissions. Five power plants, including the Meadowlands power plant, and the Sewaren 7 plant built in 2018, would increase GHG emissions from electricity generation by approximately 76%, in direct conflict with the Governor’s Executive Order to drive towards 100% clean renewable energy,” said Ken Dolsky, an organizer with the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition.

The Energy Master Plan needs to move away from natural gas and towards renewable energy. The Murphy Administration has been touting clean energy, it’s time they put their words into action and block the natural gas plants and pipelines. Especially those that want to export gas out of the state.

“We’re not saying yes to clean energy if we’re not saying no to dirty energy. 2018 has set the stage, but 2019 won’t win the Oscar without a strong Energy Master Plan and other policies being implemented that include a moratorium on all frack gas infrastructure, mandating maximum pollution reductions in environmental justice communities, and denying unwarranted nuclear subsidies” added Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action.

The Empower NJ-No Fossil Fuel Projects coalition has grown to over 70 environmental, citizen, and faith groups in New Jersey. The campaign is calling on Governor Murphy to put a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure until New Jersey has rules and standards in place to achieve our state’s 100% clean energy goals. The coalition believes that the NJDEP should immediately move to set standards for greenhouse gasses, CO2 as well as methane, which they’ve had the authority to do since 2005. This includes regulating the Air Pollution Control Act and Title V permits to stop new plants and reduce existing pollution to protect the health of New Jersey’s communities. The BPU can require natural gas powerplants to prove that they are needed. Even the Global Warming Response Act calls for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases from baseline year 2006 by 2050.

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