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Posted with permission by the American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey.

This letter was sent as submitted comments on the NJDEP’s proposal to formally repeal the law that allowed NJ to be part of the multi-state RGGI clean-energy coalition.

September 5, 2014

Submitted Comments Opposing Governor Christie’s NJDEP Proposed Repeal of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Alice Previte, Esq.
Attn: DEP Docket No. 04-14-15
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 402
401 E. State Street, Seventh Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Dear Ms. Previte:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the American Sustainable Business Council-NJ, representing diverse companies and business associations, regarding NJDEP Docket No. 04-14-15.

The American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey and its network of NJ-based business owners and supporters are dedicated to pursuing a sustainable economy in New Jersey.  Therefore, we request the reinstatement of New Jersey into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Throughout the Northeast, RGGI has consistently shown that it contributes to bolstering state financial coffers, while also reducing greenhouse emissions. RGGI also serves to stimulate new markets for renewables and clean energy technologies, which lead to additional job growth and the attraction of new financial investment capital.

As business leaders in New Jersey, we see RGGI as a very smart investment; one that mitigates the risk of climate change, while producing much needed revenue and the cause of many new, well paid, in-state jobs. RGGI demonstrates that economic gain and environmental stewardship are entirely compatible. RGGI is a business investment that pays significant dividends with almost no associated risk.

We call upon Governor Christie to re-engage New Jersey in RGGI for the following reasons:

1/ RGGI is a market-based and impactful way for New Jersey to reduce its global warming emissions, while at the same expanding its clean energy economy.

2/ RGGI is a source of revenue. New Jersey can generate millions of dollars in carbon revenues through RGGI. These dollars can be invested in local economic opportunities. Prior to its withdrawal from RGGI in 2011, New Jersey raised over $113 million in revenues.

3/ RGGI helps to mitigate the very real risks of climate change. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy demonstrate the economic risks associated with inaction. RGGI is a prudent insurance policy against further damage.

4/ RGGI is an effective and flexible way for New Jersey to comply with EPA’s recently announced draft carbon standard for power plants.

5/ Residents of New Jersey want climate action. An overwhelming majority (80%) of citizens support limits on carbon emissions.

RGGI is a proven program that generates benefits for businesses, creates jobs and provides a positive impact on the economy.

Since 2009, the program has helped to:

  • Reduce climate-altering carbon pollution by almost 30 percent;
  • Cut electricity prices by 8 percent;
  • Create more than 23,000 job-years of work;
  • Lock in more than $1.8 billion in long-term savings on energy bills; and
  • Add more than $2.4 billion in economic activity to the region.”

As business leaders, we recognize a good investment when we see one, and RGGI stands out as a clear case in point. RGGI is only an early example of the adjustments and steps we will all have to make in the dawning era of climate change recognition, but it is one that has proven its worth to us within the NJ business community.

We encourage the Christie Administration to appreciate the business case for rejoining RGGI.

Sincerely,

Matt Polsky

Business Engagement Manager
American Sustainable Business Council-New Jersey

This guest post is by my friend and colleague Matt Polsky.

Matt Polsky is a sustainability change agent, a Montclair State University professor and a Senior Fellow at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise.

What I find immensely valuable about this post is Matt’s list of sustainable development successes and failures in our state.

The initiatives that are going well deserve our support.

The failures deserve our attention because most of them were great programs that failed because they weren’t in the right place at the right time–politically, economically, or because of a lack of vision.

I believe that all the hard work that brought them into being once can be re-vitalized once we’re in greener political, economic, and social pastures.

One specific example is the report Matt mentions that offers guidance and recommendations for a sustainable business-oriented economy.

It got shelved. And it can be un-shelved.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And we won’t be starting from scratch.

* * * * * *

A Look at Sustainable Development in New Jersey: How Have We Done & What Are the Opportunities–If We Want Them?

Part 1

By: Matt Polsky

“Achieving sustainable development is the overriding challenge of the 21st century,” according to the United Nations General Assembly President, Vuk  Jeremic, although to this day most have never heard of it or know little about it.  Here in New Jersey, we have had a blotchy past with it, with some success stories, but with many I’d have to say blown opportunities.

This may be due to a widely shared and thoroughly bi-partisan attitude: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  This mindset precludes curiosity among policy-makers to learn about emerging global threats, as well as new ways to address them, such as green economic development.

It could be that the stream of always-ready-to-take-the-stage, attention-absorbing controversies such as “Bridge-gate;” the perceived need for continual updates to changing political horseraces; as well as some serious events like 9/11, the financial melt-down, and Sandy–by their nature, drown out more subtle and nuanced topics.

Or it could be that the growing number of citizens actually interested in and involved with sustainability have just given up on government and public policy as a means to get there, and prefer to work things out in quieter corners.

I offer this three-parter hoping we (government included) have it within ourselves to be able to break through the “we don’t know what we don’t know” mental trap,  are willing to tackle some serious longer term global and other difficult issues (and some no longer so long term) to which we’re not as immune as we might like to think, and take advantage of some of the beneficial properties offered by sustainability.

If we could at least suspend those cynical outlooks, find a little time to be reflective, and are willing to remember that most of us probably once enjoyed learning new things and being challenged, we just might find some useful directions for the future.

Benefits of a Sustainability Approach
Sustainability offers insights from newer fields with which we might not be familiar, including hybrids of traditional fields we tend to miss, such as social entrepreneurship; and the deepening convergence between the economic and environmental sides of what might seem the oxymoronic sustainable business sector.  We could take better advantage of promising ideas from around the world, and certainly could be more creative in encouraging and looking for new approaches in places where we might not think to find them.  But these are only available to us if we are willing to go outside our collective comfort zones.

This Series
Most of the rest of this piece describes the often one-step forward-one-step backwards pattern of our state’s historical involvement with sustainable development.

Part 2 will describe the emerging sustainable business field, a major part of and development within sustainability, with an increasing number of companies now ready to hear more than the constrained message: “I’m willing to do something sustainable but only if it saves me money.”  This supports this field’s larger potential, which could be taken advantage of and made the theme of our overall state economic development strategy.  But, as things stand, it won’t be.

The series will end in Part 3 with a discussion of the soon-to-to be publicly launched NJDEP Sustainable Business Initiative.  This Initiative, while improved from its early conception through stakeholder participation and a considerable willingness of agency staffers to listen, could be expanded further and made the centerpiece upon which to build this integrated environmental/economic strategy.

The Checkered New Jersey Past
A history lesson shows both the successes and self-inflicted failures of sustainability efforts in New Jersey.

The failures list is, unfortunately, more heavily weighted, and shows the sheer number of opportunities and initiatives we simply gave away.

At the risk of appearing negative, as I could get hit by a bus tomorrow it is important to generate this historical record for those becoming interested in sustainability, and possibly as a way to capture “lessons learned,” in order to accelerate the learning curves of any future do-overs.

For instance, I was recently asked by a Rutgers student for the lessons from a failed eco-industrial park project in Trenton several years ago. This is the idea, pioneered in Denmark, of a near-Zero pollution-generating cluster of co-located businesses, that link each participant’s waste with another’s raw material needs, in order to save at both ends.  While it was a little bitter to reflect on a “failure,” I was happy to be able to inform students how they might avoid some unanticipated and annoying problems should they wish to try again.  Perhaps even historical “failures” don’t have to stay that way.

Sustainability Successes
Probably the largest sustainability success story in New Jersey has been the involvement now of 410 municipalities in becoming certified by Sustainable Jersey, including emerging and now emerged stars such as Montclair, Woodbridge, Highland Park, and Morristown.

I was initially more skeptic than proponent, but they won me over by:

*their development of an increasing range of activities from which towns could choose in their pursuit of certification;

*the use of tiers to distinguish a minimum level of sustainability actions from the strivers;

*its unarguable immense popularity; and

*their reach-out to teach and learn from another country, Taiwan, demonstrating the feasibility of overcoming a common limitation of a sustainable communities mindset that only the local municipality is relevant to sustainability.

More recently, they displayed a willingness to go into the unknown and try to figure out what “Gold-level” certification would mean in practice.  That is, what would a truly sustainable municipality look like-a very difficult if necessary stretch if we truly take sustainability seriously.

There certainly have been some other successes, such as:

*the Dodge Foundation’s support of Sustainable Jersey;

*the longevity of, and green buildings manuals produced by, the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, and some of its member college’s relatively new educational offerings;

*the cutting edge lectures on sustainable business ideas at my institution, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE), and the occasional conferences by Ramapo College;

*the more localized efforts, such as Transition Jersey’s lectures in Newton;

*the growing number of farmer’s markets throughout the state;

*the interfaith group, GreenFaith’s, efforts to bring sustainability to houses of worship;

*the re-missioning of  Duke Gardens to become a showcase of sustainable practice;

*the efforts of some K-12 educators, architects and planners and their organizations to add their orientations to the field; and

*the better-known overall solar power performance of the state.

Sustainability Failures
The self-inflicted tragedies include:

*The demise of the pioneering Office of Sustainable Business within state government, which had begun to help very green businesses and develop policies to support them.

*A past NJDEP Administrative Order, and then a Governor’s Executive Order to make the agency’s, and then the State’s policies, consistent with sustainability.

*These led to a series of recommendations generated by staff and some outside stakeholders, and subsequently accepted by senior management, first within NJDEP, and then by all state agencies, for new or revised sustainability policies and actions.  These were published, but subsequently ignored by succeeding NJDEP Commissioners and Governors, respectively.  The press missed the story, and neither the Legislature or the environmental community showed any interest in their traditional roles of ensuring government accountability.

*The establishment of a Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers to guide state-wide sustainability thinking and issue updates of the state’s performance on a range of sustainability indicators, which Rutgers, for some reason, ended a few years later

*A White Paper and Report by ISE for state government which provided guidance and recommendations for a sustainable business-oriented economy, which have been ignored.

*My own Institute’s discontinuance of a new graduate Certificate program for managing sustainably lauded by the pioneering (as well as final) class.

*The near-ending of thinking about how New Jersey could be both a model for, as well as learn from worthy international sustainability actions, such as Netherlands-style covenants between government and businesses, which involved long term very ambitious environmental goal-setting, to which both  would mutually commit.

*Environmental/business partnerships, such as the Green and Gold Task Force, to try to cooperatively address some regulatory issues.

*State actions to mitigate climate change, itself with a looping start-stop-start-now stop historic pattern.

*Repeated efforts over the years to alert Legislators of both parties, including some of the environmental leading lights, succeeding Governors’ Offices and NJDEP Commissioners of the possibilities have been ignored-to this day. Most have not even responded.

*This lack of interest is unfortunately shared by the media (with very few exceptions, such as the “GrassRoots” section of The Daily Record), possibly not seeing any of this as newsworthy.

*Even the environmental community has not been overly interested in integrating green economy ideas into their work, or perhaps continues to see it as impossible. They have not, by and large, undertook the ambitious partnerships with businesses seen elsewhere, including working with companies to understand and value the latter’s economic dependence on healthy ecosystems, thus missing out on opening an entirely new front in protecting the environment.

I’m surely missing some in both the successes and failures columns.

In the next Part I will look at “something new under the sun” possibilities for a green economy, and discuss some opportunities that could still be seized-if that’s what someday we choose to do.

Regaining real leadership won’t be easy, will require rare vision, and won’t be feasible at all with fleeting attention spans.

NJ State Hazard Mitigation Plan: Long on Hazards, Short on Mitigation, Silent on Public Comment? 

Public comments Open Until April 11 But Won’t Be Considered

Back on March 11, the NJ Office of Emergency Management (OEM) tweeted and posted some good news: the state’s new FEMA-required 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan was ready—and open for public comment until April 11.

(Not that it’s going to matter, as you’ll see below, but here’s the link to submit your comments.)

This was really big, important news about NJ’s official “Disaster Plan,” since the last one was done in 2011 pre-Sandy.

An updated Hazard Mitigation Plan is not only a good idea to keep NJ citizens safe, but it’s also Federally-mandated every three years.

All states are required to have a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)- approved hazard mitigation plan in place to be eligible for disaster recovery assistance and mitigation funding.

The bad news? Hardly anyone heard the news.

I take full responsibility for missing Bill Wolfe’s ongoing coverage of this issue until today (Mar. 31). In my defense, I feel there was very little effort made on the State’s part to get my input. For one, the official press release for the Plan’s release didn’t include the start and end dates for the public comment period until I tweeted the error to them on Mar. 31.

Here’s a screen grab of the press release before the OEM office fixed it on Mar. 31. (Click to embiggen.)OEMMarch31

It’s hard to read, but the second sentence says:

“The comment period will start (date) and end (date).”

That kind of says to me that the OEM office wasn’t all that interested in hearing anything the general public had to say. (I know I’m being harsh here about an obvious typo in a press release. But this issue is important.)

What’s more, Governor Christie didn’t mention the new Plan or the public comment period in any of his recent high-profile Town Halls. The March 11 OEM announcement was tweeted exactly once. To the best of my knowledge, there were no official events connected to the Plan’s release.

And here’s the kicker. NJ’s OEM needed to submit it to FEMA by the end of March. So any public comments received were never going to be used for the current plan. No, I’m not kidding.

As reported by the central New Jersey Suburban paper March 20, here’s OEM spokesperson Mary Goepfert:

For the first time, the state has also opened up the plan to public comment through April 11 to “increase transparency regarding proposed disaster risk reduction strategies.”

However, because the plan must be submitted to FEMA by the end of March, those comments will not have an impact on the currently proposed plan, Goepfert said.

Now, I applaud that the Plan includes climate change and sea level rise for the first time. I’m glad that many of the state’s climate experts participated in the process. And that a public comment period was added, even if it is meaningless.

But it’s just not good enough.

For one, without the checks and balances of public review and input, it’s only the Christie Administration’s version.

Another concern is that Plan is long on Hazards and might be short on Mitigation.

As NJ environmental activist Bill Wolfe writes:

The plan is studded with obligatory references to scientific findings on the effects of climate change but does not integrate that science into state planning or changes in building codes, project designs, regulations or plans to spend billions of federal aid dollars.

My layperson reading of the Plan backs up Mr. Wolfe’s observation.

I couldn’t find any specific policy recommendations in the Plan to mitigate flooding hazards.

We need a plan that not only says what’s potentially likely to happen, but also what we’re going to do to keep NJ citizens safe and our economy up and running.

This plan should put all the best science and data together for State officials, citizens, planners and policy makers to make better decisions about how our state should spend money and resources.

In my opinion, this plan doesn’t come close to what we need. And without the public’s input, it’s not likely to.

So take some time to read the Plan. Share it with your friends, especially those with expertise.

Submit your comments.

And tell Governor Christie and your State representatives how you feel about it.

New Jersey doesn’t have a statewide plan for keeping our people safe, our economy strong, and our businesses thriving when the next Sandy hits.

Every state around us does, or at least is far ahead of us. There’s boatloads of good work going on in our towns and counties, but nothing on the coordinated, resource-efficient State level.

Why not? I’d like to ask personally Governor Christie about the role that climate change plays in our hot summers, destructive storms, and rising sea levels. (I believe he’s a smart man and knows perfectly well the risks facing our state.)

Chris Sturm from New Jersey Future wrote a great Sept. 23, 2013 article for NJ Spotlight where she laid out what NJ is missing and what our neighbors are doing to plan for Climate Change.

As an update, here’s the latest ways that our neighbors are pulling way ahead of New Jersey to be ready for the next big storm.

1. In New York on Jan. 7, Gov. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $17 billion climate change resiliency strategy to keep the state’s citizens safe from future Sandy-scale events. It’s called “Reimagining New York for a New Reality.”

Last June, Mayor Bloomberg announced the “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” document with NYC recommendations for rebuilding post-Sandy and strengthening infrastructure and building citywide.

2. Look at Connecticut’s Climate Preparedness Plan. Just last week, Governor Malloy stood front-and-center at the ribbon-cutting for a new world-class climate resiliency institute.

3. Low-lying Delaware’s Gov. Markell knows that his state is vulnerable to climate change and that it’s a state priority right now. In December, Markell attended the inaugural meeting of the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness as a Presidential appointee.

4. Here’s Maryland’s state climate change plan. On Jan. 31, the state issued new guidelines for state construction in areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and sea level rise.

5. And finally, Massachusetts’ Gov. Deval Patrick announced Jan 14 that the state is adding $50 million to its already robust statewide climate change planning efforts.

Right now, in New Jersey we’ve got Bridgegate and the governor’s baffling pocket veto last week of a sensible law that would let the public know about raw sewage discharges into public waterways. (A law, by the way, that New York has had on the books since 2012.)

In the cold comfort category, at least we have Pennsylvania for company. Our neighbor to the west has a new climate action plan that doesn’t include specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So who’s filling the state leadership gap?

I wrote back in May that the NJ Climate Change Adaptation Alliance has stepped up to fill the leadership and coordination role that I feel the Governor and the NJDEP should be doing.

This alliance of NJ-focused planning, development, and conservation groups are working together to create a climate change adaptation plan for New Jersey.

And on the citizen side, we can count on the good work being done by Citizens Climate Lobby to give our legislators support for reducing carbon emissions.

Also worth mentioning is North Jersey Public Policy Network that has a terrific spring lecture program lined up.

(Yale’s Geoffrey Feinberg speaks Feb. 20 on climate change communications.)

I care about our state, and want our state leaders to take the actions needed to prove they do too.

Can you think of any sane reason that our neighbors should be kicking our butts on climate action?

I can’t.

So check out these links and then tell your local and state legislators to get us stronger than the next storm.

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.

As a coastal state, New Jersey is going to feel the impacts of climate change sooner than a lot of other places. This is especially true when it comes to sea level rise and flooding. (Both links highly recommended.)

Even though our Governor doesn’t talk much about how climate change will impact New Jersey, a lot of other people are. (Including the DEP: Read the June 2013 climate change impacts report.)

With that in mind, I wanted to share five really great NJ climate change resources that are under the radar, but shouldn’t be.

There are people all over our state who are working hard so that New Jersey will be stronger than the next storm. (And everything that climate change is going to dish up in coming decades.)

1. World-Class Scientists: The Rutgers Climate Institute

 

2. Support for Sustainable Businesses: NJDEP’s Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI) and FDU’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE)

  • —The SBI’s next meeting is Feb. 4 from 1-3:30pm in Trenton.It will feature Jeana Wirtenberg, author of the new book Building a Culture for Sustainability-People, Planet, and Profits in a New Green Economy.  She’ll discuss lessons learned from nine successful NJ-based global companies.Contact Athena Sarafides at athena.sarafides@dep.state.nj.us to RSVP and more information.
  • —Don’t miss ISE’s March 4 breakfast seminar features sustainability heavyweight John Ehrenfeld, author of Flourishing. RSVP and more information.

 

3. Strong Legislation: NJ’s 2007 Global Warming Response Act

A lot of people don’t know that NJ has a strong climate change law with GHG emissions targets already on the books. Well, we do.

 

4. Robust Collaborations and Partnerships: New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance

The alliance was formed in 2011 by a diverse group of concerned stakeholders who want to make sure that NJ is prepared for coming climate change impacts.

 

5. World-Class Speakers: North Jersey Public Policy Network

Come to the Feb. 20 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.  Don’t miss this chance to hear and ask questions of one of the country’s best-informed researchers on why climate change is so incredibly hard to talk about. RSVP today.

Yesterday New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli used his office for good to help fight climate change. Among his many responsibilities, DiNapoli oversees the state’s pension fund. This includes keeping an eye on the companies that are in fund’s investments.

As the New York Times’ Diane Cardwell reports, DiNapoli helped craft an agreement to get a big electric company to take the first steps towards reducing its carbon emissions. This change will not only help make the air cleaner and healthier for people in the tri-state area, but also help our country overall.

Under Investor Pressure, Utility to Study Emissions

FirstEnergy, one of the country’s largest electric companies, has agreed to work toward reducing its carbon emissions in response to pressure from shareholders including New York State and Connecticut pension funds, New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said on Tuesday.

The company, which operates in six states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, promised to study and report on what it could do to help meet President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

And I love the DiNapoli’s reasons for going after this agreement. He’s got a long-term view on how global climate change is going to impact businesses. And he sees his responsibility to make sure that the New York state pension fund takes those risks into account.

“Many of our energy holdings obviously have been very profitable for us in the short run,” he said. “What we’re trying to ensure is that in the long run that profitability is sustainable. We do see tremendous risk if issues of climate change are not incorporated into corporate strategy.”

This win shows that shareholder activism can work for broadly positive changes. DiNapoli is using his overseer role for the New York pension fund, and his ability to broker partnerships across state lines, to get businesses moving towards a lower-carbon future and more sustainable business practices.

And it tells me that climate change is no longer political kryptonite, which is an incredibly good thing. Government and businesses have to work together for climate change action.

The timing is not accidental. Just yesterday, the SRI investing coalition called CERES asked energy companies to give themselves “stress tests” to see how well prepared they are (or not) to deal with a lower-carbon future. Again, from the Times:

In the case of FirstEnergy, Mr. DiNapoli and his partners filed the proposal as part of a larger effort with Ceres, a coalition of environmentalists and investors, to make companies more environmentally responsive. The New York State pension fund owns 1,205,383 shares of FirstEnergy, according to the comptroller’s office, worth about $38 million at the market’€™s close on Tuesday. More than half of the power sources for the utility are coal, according to its website, but it says it has been working to reduce emissions and pollution over the last two decades by closing plants and installing more emissions-control equipment.

In his position as New York Comptroller, DiNapoli has a big stick for climate change action. And he’s using it.

Sure, carrots are nice too. But in a world where businesses can continue to sit on their hands and claim that their top job is returning shareholder value, I say let’s use the sticks we’ve got.

In the best cases, like this most recent one, it’s only the threat of a stick. With this agreement, the pension fund will withdraw its shareholder resolution. Everybody wins. Healthy pension fund. Cleaner air for millions of people. Stronger energy company.

As a result, Mr. DiNapoli, the State of Connecticut and As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution they had filed for First Energy’s annual meeting this year.

(And this isn’t the first time that DiNapoli has used his office to help the environment. In March 2013, he got Dunkin Donuts to move towards more sustainable palm oil.)

DiNapoli’s leadership shows that shareholders, investors, government officials and businesses can work together to make a more sustainable future for all of us.

NJ’s not in RGGI.

But it should be.

RGGI 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 2020 GHG emissions goals. (That are mandated by the state’s 2007 Global Warming Response Act.)

Governor Christie pulled NJ out of RGGI in 2011 and has vetoed efforts to let the voters decide twice.

The only move now is to go around him.

Next stop is a Jan. 8 hearing on the matter by three NJ appellate court judges.

Via cleantechnica:

Can Climate Hawks Beat Chris Christie To Let New Jersey Rejoin RGGI?

Two developments this month, one in the state legislature and the other in the state court system, have re-opened the debate on New Jersey’s participation in RGGI’s cap-and-trade program and raise the possibility it can continue decarbonizing power generation while earning millions in clean energy investment.

We need a plan.

New Jersey doesn’t have a plan for keeping our people safe, our economy strong, and our businesses thriving when the next Sandy hits.

Every state around us does, or at least is far ahead of us.

There’s boatloads of good work going on in towns and counties, but nothing on the coordinated, resource-efficient State level.

Why not? I’d like to ask Governor Christie about the role that Climate Change plays in our hot summers, destructive storms, and rising sea levels. (I believe he’s a smart man and knows perfectly well the risks facing our state.)

Chris Sturm from New Jersey Future wrote this great Sept. 23 editorial for NJ Spotlight. She lays out what NJ is missing and what our neighbors are doing to plan for Climate Change in general, and sea-level rise in particular.

Via njspotlight:

Opinion: It’s time to connect the dots between rising sea levels and rebuilding

In contrast, neighboring state governments offer tools and guidance to their communities to help them protect constituents from sea level rise and other climate impacts. New York State’s Reconstruction Rising offers $25 million in grants and a toolkit for assessing sea-level rise out to the year 2100. Connecticut has released a Climate Preparedness Plan and is creating a climate resiliency research center to help coastal communities. To the south, Delaware has assessed its vulnerability to climate change and offers its communities free climate preparedness training, while Maryland’s initiatives include new sea level rise projections to help decisionmakers plan.

I wrote back in May that the NJ Climate Change Adaptation Alliance has stepped up to fill the leadership and coordination role that I feel the Governor and the NJ DEP should be doing.

This alliance of NJ-focused planning, development, and conservation groups are working together to create a climate change adaptation plan for New Jersey.

There’s lots of strong science, experienced planning and top-notch engineering happening that we can apply to our state’s needs.

I care about our state, and want our State Leaders to take the actions needed to prove they do too.

 

So, how’d it go?

Yesterday, new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz appeared before a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The topic: President Obama’s climate change policies.

Here’s what she said:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Testimony Before House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Chairman Whitfield, Ranking Member Rush, members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

In June, the President reaffirmed his commitment to reducing carbon pollution when he directed many federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, to take meaningful steps to mitigate the current and future damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions and to prepare for the anticipated climate changes that have already been set in motion.

How come? Because:

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists are convinced that human caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet. Reducing carbon pollution is critically important to the protection of Americans’ health and the environment upon which our economy depends.

Fair enough.

And here’s a snip from Secretary Moniz’ prepared testimony.

The threat of a warming planet to our communities, our infrastructure and our way of life is also clear. Rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and major storms are already costing our economy billions of dollars a year and these impacts are only going to grow more severe. Common sense demands that we take action.

How did the Sub-Committee members like it? Pretty good.

Via The Guardian.com:

Obama climate change plan gets first airing in front of House sceptics

EPA asserted authority to move forward without new laws from Congress at hearing where contrarian views were on display

There was some climate skepticism. Some explaining of science.

And some outright factual falsehoods. Worth the click to see regular people wearing tinfoil hats.

Via thinkprogress.org:

The Five Craziest Arguments at Yesterday’s Climate Hearing

Here are the five oddest things Administrator McCarthy and Secretary Moniz heard from House Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing.

The upshot? Tomorrow, Administrator McCarthy will present the EPA’s next steps to reduce carbon pollution and climate change impacts. She’s expected to announce curbs on new power plant emissions.

Via EPA.gov:

FRIDAY: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Speaks at National Press Club Sept. 20

WASHINGTON – EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will discuss EPA’s priorities in addressing climate change at a National Press Club Speakers’ event on Friday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. Administrator McCarthy will highlight the Administration’s commitment to carrying out President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution and address the impacts of a changing climate. She will also discuss her vision for the EPA and challenges the Agency will face going forward.