June 4, 2020
TO: Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Speaker Coughlin, Legislative Leaders, Restart and Recovery Advisory Council Members
Re: Sustainable Green Jobs Recovery
We thank Governor Murphy and the administration for their work to manage an unprecedented crisis and by providing a science-based, rational approach to addressing it and informing the public. In the midst of this effort, we also commend Governor Murphy’s continued commitment to address the climate crisis. This health crisis has shown that communities most impacted by air pollution have suffered higher death rates from COVID-19. Like climate change, this risk disproportionately affects underserved and overburdened communities. However, New Jersey is in a position to reduce air pollution, fight climate change and get people back to work in the clean energy economy that provides family sustaining wages and set our economy up for success.
We, the undersigned, a diverse group of business, environmental, recreation, community and planning organizations urge New Jersey’s elected leaders to put New Jersey on a path to recovery from the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by investing in programs and projects that drive New Jersey toward a stronger and fairer economy and healthier and more sustainable future. To do this, we need to advance clean energy, upgrade parks and trails, improve water infrastructure and make communities more resilient to flooding and rising seas. Investing in these critical green infrastructure projects is the most effective way to create much-needed jobs while improving public health and safety and will realize significant, shared returns on investment. A recent analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars and an economic return of $2.4 for every $1 invested.
The undersigned groups believe the following sectors, with anticipated economic benefits, should be prioritized in any spending decisions:
● Advance Clean Energy. The recently adopted Energy Master Plan describes a low-cost energy system based on wind, solar, energy efficiency, grid modernization, and electrifying the transportation and building sectors. Research has shown that wind and solar projects generate about double the jobs per million dollars of investment compared to coal, oil and natural gas projects. Clean energy can be accelerated with targeted investments in energy efficient retrofits and appliances that reduce energy bills for consumers. According to a report by E2, New Jersey’s clean energy economy already supports 51,000 jobs, with 34,000 of those in energy efficiency alone. While clean energy accounted for more than 40 percent of America’s entire energy workforce, 79% in New Jersey -- nearly 600,000 clean energy jobs have been lost during the pandemic, with 70% in energy efficiency. With the implementation of Clean Energy Act programs about to begin New Jersey should use this time to invest in a local, robust energy efficiency workforce. Building retrofits offer a massive opportunity for new local jobs - and create more than 17 jobs per million invested. Retrofitting jobs are always local, can’t be exported, and can be targeted in communities that have older, less efficient housing stock. Workers in clean energy earn 8-19% higher wages than the national average wage and in other industries. These jobs have lower barriers to entry and fuel small businesses, according to the Brookings Institute. More than 60% of all energy efficiency jobs are in construction, and 97% of energy efficiency firms employ fewer than 99 employees, with the vast majority employing fewer than 20 employees. Investing in NJ’s clean energy is investing in New Jersey small businesses. Advancing our clean energy economy must be a priority.
● Update Parks and Trails. New Jerseyan’s are relying on parks and trails more than ever, but not all communities have sufficient access to open space. Currently, outdoor recreation contributes $17.8 billion in consumer spending, $6.1 billion in wages and salaries, $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue annually, as well as 158,000 direct New Jersey jobs. Studies suggest that for every dollar invested in open space preservation, there is a ten-dollar yield of economic benefits from ecosystem services (such as water purification, waste treatment and flood mitigation), natural goods (such as fish and farm products), and outdoor recreation activities across the entire state. According to the Trust for Public Land, twenty-three jobs are created for every million dollars of direct agency spending on park operations; sixteen jobs for every million dollars of direct agency spending on capital projects, and; seventeen jobs are created for every million dollars invested in trail development, according to East Coast Greenway. Additionally, park investment significantly raises property values, reduces asthma and childhood obesity rates. Residences adjacent to parks and preserved open spaces reflect land values 15-20% higher than those a block or more away. Enhancing access, updating our parks and trails, and better protecting our existing parks and trails through needed improvements, proper stewardship and adequate staffing should be a core tenant to our recovery agenda.
● Build Resilience to Climate Disasters. Climate change poses a direct and imminent economic risk, one that we are already seeing become more and more costly. Severe weather, flooding, and other associated climate impacts have become more common, threatening lives and millions in property damage and value lost. These risks strain the adaptive capacity of communities to mitigate hazards, pronounce social inequities, and require significant and coordinated investment to alleviate impacts. Executive Order 89 established an interagency task force to create statewide and coastal resiliency plans. These plans emphasize nature-based solutions such as living shorelines, marsh restoration and the deployment of green infrastructure to reduce flood risks. Other strategies being considered include elevating roads, buildings, and upgrading coastal infrastructure. For every dollar invested in pre-disaster risk reduction, an average of $7 is saved from reduced flooding risk. This is a worthwhile investment, as New Jersey is one of the states with the most to lose in real estate value due to the anticipated impacts of climate change, over $4.5 billion in coastal real estate alone.
● Improve Water Infrastructure. Climate change will cause significant, system-wide water quality and quantity issues. Across the country, we can see changes in fresh water availability and water quality, exacerbating existing issues present in our communities' water systems like lead and emerging contaminants. These further highlight existing inefficiencies like leaking pipes and antiquated infrastructures that manage stormwater, such as combined sewer systems. Green infrastructure investments help mitigate these realized impacts by absorbing water like a sponge and cleaning up polluted runoff water. These investments have significant economic benefits as for every dollar invested in green infrastructure, communities can realize $7 to $27 in ancillary benefits, as well as achieve reductions in crime, improved health outcomes, enhanced water quality, and increased property values, not to mention a decrease in pressures on current, antiquated stormwater infrastructures. Green infrastructure investments in Philadelphia support 1,000 jobs annually. In addition, to support an equitable recovery, we should suspend water and sewer shut-offs through and beyond the expiration of the emergency declaration. Smart and coordinated investments in our essential water infrastructures can drive needed public and private investments into our communities, improve water quality, reduce public health disparities and remove toxic contaminants like lead, catalyze economic growth, and spur good local job creation.
It is critical to put New Jerseyan's back to work and we can create more good local union jobs building wind, solar, parks, trails and the upgraded essential green infrastructure that will protect us from the dangerous realities of climate change, improve our quality of life, reduce pollution in the most overburdened communities and set up our 21st-century economy for success. Investing in the clean energy and other green sectors will create more jobs and make our communities healthier and safer places to live, and help spur a stronger and fairer economy for all New Jerseyan’s.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 609-331-9922.
New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
The Nature Conservancy – New Jersey Chapter
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
Energy Efficiency Alliance of New Jersey
Environmental Defense Fund
Natural Resource Defense Council
New Jersey Audubon
New Jersey Future
New Jersey Highlands Coalition
New Jersey Sustainable Business Council
Pinelands Preservation Alliance
Regional Plan Association
The Watershed Institute
Trenton Cycling Revolution
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance