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5 Ways NJ Used to Be a Clean Energy and Climate Leader…and Could Be Again

January 27th, 2014 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Government

New Jersey used to be clean energy and climate leader.

We’re not anymore. But we can be again. (Newsroom!)

Here are 5 things that have changed since Governor Christie first took office in January 2010.

(I’m indebted to Scott Dodd’s Nov. 2013 Slate and Katherine Bagley’s Dec. 2013 InsideClimate pieces. They connected a lot of the dots for me and provided important links in this post.)

1. We used to have an office of Climate and Energy.

It was dismantled by Governor Christie soon after he was inaugurated in January 2010. But thanks to the Internet, we can see how Global Warming used to have a prominent role on the state government’s website, with links to the Office of Climate and Energy. See, the old page is still there.

Solution: Sign the “Create Office of Clean Energy” bill that was approved by both houses of our Legislature but pocket vetoed by Governor Christie on Wed, Jan. 22.

2. We used to be part of RGGI.

RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is a multi-state cap-and-trade system that creates jobs, brings clean energy investment to the state, and moves us closer to NJ’s mandated 2020 GHG emissions goals.

Its current members are the nine states that surround NJ: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, RI, and VT.

And we used to make 10. Governor Christie pulled NJ out of RGGI in 2011 and has twice vetoed efforts to let the voters decide. We’re missing out on good jobs, cleaner air, and clean energy growth.

Solution: Let’s rejoin. The best move on the table right now is to sue, and that’s what’s happening.

On Jan. 8, three NJ appellate court judges heard testimony from Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council based on the lawsuit they filed in 2012.

Here’s a good article from Environment New Jersey on what’s at stake.

3. We could have been part of the NE “Clean Air” coalition.

The governors of our neighboring Northeastern states decided that it’s not OK for states West and South of us to spew their coal-plant air pollution our way.

So, the Governors of those states are asking the EPA for help to stop it: DE, CT, ML, MA, NH, NY, RI, and VT.

Gov. Christie decided that NJ didn’t need to be part of this effort so he didn’t sign on.

Solution: Come on. Let’s join all our neighbors in fighting for cleaner air.

4. We used to be #2 in solar installations.

Now we’re #6. That’s right, NJ was the #2 state for solar for several years behind gigantic, sunny California.

You want to know why solar is such a good fit for NJ’s clean energy needs? Because we have so many darned big flat roofs on our commercial buildings. Not to mention, a bevy of formerly-industrial brownfield sites that are perfect for solar arrays. And close to the all-important power distribution grid.

So what changed? It’s complicated but it has to do with how NJ set up financial incentives called SRECs, federal cash grants, state incentives, and the 2008 financial crisis. (This July 2012 Star-Ledger article will help.)

As well, Christie raided dedicated clean-energy funds to balance his budget. Like $1billion.

Solution: Let’s reestablish the Office of Clean Energy (See #1) and let them do their job.

5. Our Governor used to believe that taking action against human-caused climate change was a state priority for his office.

As recently as 2011, Governor Christie said: “In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state.”

Not anymore. His equivocations around using the words Sandy and climate change in the same sentence are well documented. One long but well-worth-it read.

Solution: Governor Christie can step firmly and decisively on the right side of history and even be a leader for climate change action.

* * *

Remember the slogan “Trenton Makes, the World Takes?” That’s not just a slogan.

New Jersey has a proud history of getting the job done.

There’s no more important issue facing us today than preparing for climate change impacts. We can and should be doing it right now.

Want to be part of the solution?

Come to the Feb. 20 NJPPN event with Geoffrey Feinberg from Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication and Climate Nexus. It’s called America’s Future: Communicating with our Neighbors on Climate Change.

RSVP today.

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