Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter, has announced that he will retire as of May 1, 2021. For nearly 23 years Tittel has been one of New Jersey’s strongest and most unrelenting advocates for the environment. As a constant presence among Trenton’s lawmakers, this knowledgeable, dedicated and sometimes outspoken lobbyist has been involved in every major environmental legislation passed in the state since 1998. He has been instrumental in helping pass landmark legislation, sometimes in the face of strong opposition. Always well-informed and detail-oriented, Tittel has worked on behalf of New Jersey’s citizens, sitting with industry leaders and legislators to ensure that our laws were stronger, and with fewer loopholes than they would otherwise have been.
“I’d like to thank everyone who I had the pleasure of working with over the years as NJ Sierra Club’s Director and the accomplishments we made together. You have been part of my extended family and I will miss our comradery. We worked from one end of New Jersey to the other and everywhere in between whether it was working to protect the Pinelands, cleaning up toxic sites, protecting our parks, reducing climate change impacts, saving open space in the Highlands, protecting out clean water and more. Thank you for all of your kind words as I prepare for retirement,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Moving on was a hard decision. However, given that I have spent 51 years as an environmental activist and almost 23 years as the NJ Chapter Director, I felt it was time to make a change.”
Tittel may be best remembered for his memorable one-liners, for example calling an environmental commissioner a “pander bear,” wondering whether Passaic’s Great Falls might soon be called “Viagra Falls” due to the levels of pharmaceuticals in the water, or called the NJ proposed changes to the bear hunt “Murphy’s Unbearable Hunt.” “I can take complex issues and explain them simply,” says Tittel.
Rich Isaac, Chair of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter, said, “Jeff has worked tirelessly in Trenton working to protect our State’s clean air, water and soil, to fight for the rights of people living in overburdened communities and to combat climate change. He will leave some very big shoes to fill.”
News of Tittel’s retirement has drawn feedback from many elected officials. Congressman Frank Pallone, (NJ-06) said, “[Jeff] knows more about environmental issues on the state and federal level than anyone I know.”
NJ State Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg said, “It’s hard to imagine the Sierra Club without Jeff Tittel. He was never shy; never retiring; never someone who is afraid to fight for the values of the Sierra Club, as well as his own. He has contributed mightily to a cleaner environment for me and for all the generations who come after us. His leadership will be missed, but I know he has built an organization that will continue to fight for a better, cleaner future.”
NJ State Senator Kip Bateman, “New Jersey’s environment is in a much better place because of Jeff’s leadership and commitment to a cleaner New Jersey. His legacy will continue but his retirement will certainly be a loss for New Jersey’s environment.”
“As Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel has advocated for policies and legislation that preserve and protect New Jersey for the last twenty years. From strengthening the State’s global warming response, to preserving open space, to protecting groundwater from contaminants, Jeff has truly embodied what it means to be a champion of the environment,” said Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex). “It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Jeff over these many years. His sense of humor is infectious and memorable, and he was always willing to provide advice on any subject. Though the Senate Environment and Energy committee will miss his thoughtful testimonies, I wish him the best in this new chapter.”
“Jeff’s advocacy for the environment and ability to capture it in a quip is legendary in Trenton circles, leaving many green with envy. The state of New Jersey and its natural environment is better off for having him for all these years. From clean-ups to preservation to renewable energy he leaves a proud legacy in New Jersey consistent with the mission of the Sierra Club. I wish him and his wife, Barbara, many happy years of being grandparents,” said Assemblyman John McKeon.
“Since 1892, the Sierra Club has led the way in the protection of the world we inhabit. For well over 20 years, Jeff Tittel led the fight in New Jersey for major environmental legislation including the Highlands Act, New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Recycling Law, and New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act. While his leadership and advocacy will be missed, his impact on the fight for clean air, water, and land is profound and will have an impact for generations to come,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker. “I wish him nothing but the best, though I suspect while he is retiring, his work on behalf of our environment is far from complete.”
Environmental leaders have weighed in as well. Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said, “Jeff redefined environmental advocacy in New Jersey when he became director of Sierra Club. At the time, environmental organizations simply didn’t have the influence or the sophisticated strategic thinking that could really move legislative decision making or mount bold, effective campaigns. But Jeff made that happen – he brought intelligence, a background grounded in social justice and democratic principles, and true grit to the job of fighting for the environment in New Jersey. And that changed the New Jersey we live in, immeasurably benefitting us all and the natural world. Jeff’s retirement will leave a void that can’t ever be filled but what he has contributed has enriched our state and will far outlast his, and all of our, tenure.”
“Jeff has an unprecedented record of advocating on behalf of New Jersey’s environment. He has led environmental activism since he was a kid in Hillside, fought development in Ringwood and throughout the Highlands as a volunteer and then created a legacy of leading the New Jersey Sierra Club for more than two decades. Jeff is many things —loquacious, erudite, omnipresent, pugnacious when needed — but no one can question his effectiveness and commitment to our environment and his record of challenging both polluters and political leaders to be better environmental stewards. He leaves a legacy of environmental activism and hard-fought victories across New Jersey from his beloved Highlands to cleaner air and water. While he is retiring from his position, I have no doubt he will stay in the good fight,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
Matt Smith, NJ Director of Food & Water Watch said, “Nobody has a better handle on NJ environmental policy than Jeff Tittel. And like the great basketball guards of the modern game, Jeff understands that you need a strong inside and outside game to excel. With his leadership, the NJ Sierra Club organized a powerful network of volunteer groups in every region of the state. And unlike some contemporaries who rely on expensive lobbying and slick PR campaigns, Jeff has consistently paired his policy expertise and political savvy with a deep commitment to grassroots organizing. This combination has made him one of the most effective environmental guardians in Garden State history, who’s contributions to the movement will be felt for generations to come.”
Jeff Tittel has been instrumental in the passage of the following landmark legislation:
– Saving Sterling Forest – This 25-year battle resulted in one of the most significant open space victories in the nation. Ultimately 20,000 acres of forest were saved in one of the largest coalitions of environmental groups and government entities ever assembled. This battle serves as a model for other efforts around the country to preserve open space and protect critical wild lands.
– The NJ Highlands Act – 2004 The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act is a landmark piece of legislation that put critical protections in place for one of New Jersey’s most environmentally-sensitive and ecologically important areas.
– New Jersey’s Clean Car Program – 2004 – sometimes characterized as New Jersey’s “first major climate response bill,” brings New Jersey in line with California’s automobile emissions requirements, which are the strictest in the nation.
– Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) – 2007, updated 2019 – Under this law, the DEP must assess the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and find ways to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Tittel has been a strong voice in the ongoing rulemaking under the GWRA, known as NJ-PACT (Protecting Against Climate Threats). This is the Murphy Administration’s regulatory reform effort to modernize environmental laws.
– Plastic Bag Ban – New Jersey’s bill is one of the comprehensive in the country.
– Banning Fracking in the Delaware River Basin – this recent ruling by the Delaware River Basin Commission was lauded by environmental groups across the country. Tittel worked closely with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Water Defenders on the campaign that resulted in this decision.
Tittel’s Sierra Club career includes many other highlights. These include co-founding Empower NJ, a 120+ member coalition is working to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in New Jersey. After Hurricane Sandy devastated the region in 2012, Tittel was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. He was also named to FEMA’s Sandy Natural Resources Committee. He has been named one of the Most Influential People in New Jersey by the NJ Star Ledger in 2014, and for several years running has been on Insider’s New Jersey “Insider 100 Policymaker” lists.
New Jersey Sierra Club Chapter’s activists have been quick to express their appreciation of Tittel’s dedication and knowledge. “Jeff has in-depth knowledge that will be hard to replicate, from intricate details of environmental policy in New Jersey, to details on past lawsuits, to the details of water and quality issues.” Bill Beren, Chair of the NJ Sierra Club Transportation Committee.
“His knowledge of environmental issues throughout this large and challenging state, his recall of how issues from years past are affecting us today, his grasp of environmental laws and his connections to legislators are unmatched,” said Gary Frederick, Conservation Chair of the NJ Sierra Club Raritan Valley Group.
About the Sierra Club:
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. With over 20,000 members, New Jersey Chapter is the 10th largest of the club’s 65 chapters, with a strong and energized grassroots volunteer base.