Contact: Ed Potosnak
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Environmental Advocates say Murphy ‘Needs Improvement’ in 100-Day Progress Report
Trenton - One hundred days into his second term, a coalition of environmental advocates has issued a report grading Governor Murphy as “Needs Improvement” and calling on him to double down on policy priorities that would put New Jersey at the forefront of environmental protection, clean energy and job creation.
“While Governor Murphy was one of the nation’s strongest environmental champions in his first term, now is not the time for him to rest on his laurels,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, one of the groups that issued the grade. “We need the Governor to use the mandate he earned through his historic re-election to advance critical environmental priorities that protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink while transitioning our state to clean, renewable energy. As the effects of the climate crisis become ever more apparent across New Jersey, now is not the time to lose focus or let up.”
While Governor Murphy has made some progress on environmental priorities — including putting the brakes on the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s plans for a new gas-fired power plant in Newark — his record pales in comparison with the first hundred days in his first term.
When the Governor first took office, he immediately undertook bold actions on climate and clean energy, quickly issuing an executive order that paved the way for New Jersey to re-enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and committing to the highest offshore wind production in the nation while working to curb the growth of polluting fossil fuel industries.
“Murphy has delivered on some of his commitments including a focus on environmental justice and promoting offshore wind,” said Eric Stiles, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon. “But he needs to stress the urgency of addressing climate change, especially in a coastal state like New Jersey. Climate can’t wait, and the administration needs to put this issue front and center. I look forward to seeing more activity in this space during the remainder of his administration.”
A broad-based coalition of more than 25 advocacy organizations came together in February to announce a common executive agenda that set clear environmental priorities for the Governor in 2022. Today’s announcement represents the first effort to hold Governor Murphy accountable for achieving those goals.
Chief among advocates’ demands is that the Governor abandon a raid of more than $80 million in funding for clean energy projects currently included in his budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year. At a time when the state is seeing record revenues as well as billions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funding, the budget should not be balanced at the expense of clean energy projects that reduce climate pollution, improve air quality, and create union jobs.
Advocates are also calling on Governor Murphy to commit to achieve a 100 % clean electricity standard by 2035 a critical step in the fight to build a clean energy economy and head off a climate change disaster.
“Governor Murphy understands the necessity for a clean energy economy, and clean air and water for all. He demonstrated that in his first term, and now it is imperative to not let go of that progress,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey State Director for the Sierra Club. “Ensuring the Governor’s climate policies and vision turn into action, clean energy funds are not raided, overburdened communities are given a true chance at clean air and water, and solidifying our State’s clean energy market must be the priority. It’s been 100 days, let’s turn it around into great progress.”
“A 100% commitment to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible across New Jersey’s many communities will demonstrate to young people in the state that their future matters and, perhaps more importantly, that their future will be livable, breathable and affordable,” said Rachel Dawn Davis, Waterspirit Public Policy & Justice Organizer.
Environmentalists are also asking that the Governor prioritize moving appointments to the Pinelands Commission and Highlands Council after years of delay, taking advantage of the momentum generated by a compromise reached during last year’s lame duck session that culminated in the confirmation of a slate of candidates to the Pinelands Commission that included longtime environmental champion Theresa Lettman. Bringing both agencies up to full strength will help to protect our state’s two most important ecological treasures.
“The appointment of Theresa Lettman to the Pinelands Commission early in the year was critical, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance thanks the Governor and his team, but the Pinelands Commission still needs leadership,” said Jaclyn Rhoads, Assistant Executive Director of Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “The executive director position is vacant, and two commission seats need to be filled. The Pinelands Climate Change Committee isn’t meeting on a regular basis. If Governor Murphy wants New Jersey to continue to be a leader on climate change, then he needs to help push the Pinelands Commission in the right direction by filling seats. This is an urgent matter. Approximately 22% of the state and 17 trillion gallons of freshwater cannot be ignored any longer.”
Advocates are also asking the Department of Environmental Protection to move forward with new regulations to secure safe drinking water for millions of New Jersey families, reversing rollbacks made during the Christie administration.
"Development projects that could only move forward because of the Christie-era rollbacks to water quality regulations are being proposed across New Jersey," said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and Chairperson of New Jersey LCV. "Five years ago, Governor-elect Murphy's transition team made a priority recommendation to reverse those rollbacks. Because Governor Murphy has failed to act, these projects are now receiving state permits.”
While Governor Murphy has failed to make the environment a key part of his second term agenda, advocates noted that the Governor still has time to refocus on these critical issues and secure impressive environmental wins.
They pointed to numerous environmental policy successes in his first term as evidence that the Governor can once again seize the mantle of environmental leadership.
“Balancing the concerns over climate change and the environment with many other factors has never been an easy task, these days it seems even harder,” said Chuck Feinberg, Executive Director of NJ Clean Cities Coalition. “Governor Murphy has made an honest attempt at doing so with pluses and minuses. I applaud his efforts and encourage him to not let up.”
"New Jersey Future commends Governor Murphy's ongoing commitment to clean water and strong communities," said Chris Sturm, New Jersey Future Managing Director of Water and Policy. "We urge him and his legislative partners to deliver a transformative investment of $1.5 billion of American Rescue Plan funds for community water systems and lead remediation to keep our state healthy and affordable for everyone and to protect residents and businesses from damaging floods, the governor should also release the new rules that are part of the New Jersey Protect Against Climate Threats."
"We're calling on Governor Murphy to hold true to the promises he made in his first term and secure monies in the Clean Energy Fund from diversion and firmly oppose new fossil fuel projects or expansions,” Nicole Miller, Principal Consultant, MnM Consulting. “This administration also needs to dedicate American Rescue Plan Act dollars for necessary infrastructure improvements to protect communities from flooding dangers like we saw in Hurricane Ida, protect New Jersey families from toxic lead exposure and give municipalities the ability to take on long-overdue infrastructure upgrades."
“I credit the administration for releasing the Nature Based Climate Response grant program which directs funding to carbon sequestration projects,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. “Drawing on the strengths of nature in our effort to combat climate change by restoring tidal marshes and forests is an important innovation. Restoring and protecting these natural coastal features provides multiple benefits in our efforts to care for our coast.”
"Governor Murphy showed strong leadership on climate change and clean energy in his first term, and now is not the time to let up," said Tom Gilbert, co-executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "He should double down on efforts to address the increasingly urgent climate crisis, end the raids to the clean energy fund, address new threats like rampant warehouse development, and ensure that all New Jerseyans have equitable access to a clean, healthy environment."
"I commend Governor Phil Murphy for working with the Legislature to address the challenges with lead in the water and for reevaluating the plans for the development of a fracked gas power plant in Newark the PVSC Passaic," said Maria Santiago Valentin, Co-Founder and Director of New Jersey Affairs of Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance. "However, I would like to see him take a more determined stand and oppose the Williams-Transco Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) pipeline proposal."
"From increased funding in key areas, to increased community engagement in policy implementation via the DEP, under Governor Murphy our state is taking the required steps to achieve the aggressive clean energy production and pollution reduction goals set forth by the administration," said Marcus Sibley, NAACP New Jersey State Conference Environmental & Climate Justice Chairman. "We absolutely encourage continued development and implementation of initiatives through an equitable lens, to ensure that we'll not only strengthen the quality of our air, water and more, but also the quality of life of those most adversely impacted. Actions incongruent with equity and consistency derail efforts towards progress and cohesion, therefore in the next 100 days we look forward to continued actions in alignment with environmental justice, as courage is the most valuable currency currently."
"We applaud Governor Murphy for making significant progress on environmental justice and support for renewable energy but the lack of substantive progress on making New Jersey more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis is unsettling,” said Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director of ANJEC. “The Governor signed an Executive Order in 2020 directing the NJDEP to adopt Protecting Against Climate Threat rules (NJPACT) to safeguard residents, business, and property from the increasingly intense storms and flooding and while those rules have been written, they have yet to even be introduced. We ask Governor Murphy to publish those rules immediately."
“The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Murphy on his dedication to address climate change in New Jersey,” said Barbara Brummer, State Director of The Nature Conservancy. “However, there is still more work to be done in order to ensure our state is equipped for future storms, continue to conserve open space, and make our coasts, rivers and cities more resilient. We look forward to continuing our work with this administration.”
The coalition has also been tracking action in the Legislature and will continue to issue grades to provide accountability and educate the public on policymakers’ progress in protecting the environment, promoting public health and fighting back against New Jersey’s legacy of environmental racism.
You can find a tool that tracks Governor Murphy’s progress on environmental policies by visiting this website - https://www.njlcvef.org/policy-agenda