During the past year, our environment has been able to celebrate a number of victories on clean air and cleaning up toxic sites and our waterways. However our state faces a greater threat from the rollbacks and weakening Governor Christie is implementing and the Legislature is considering. While we have been able to make some significant gains in environmental protections in 2011, threats to our environment could undo much of the work we have accomplished over the past 30 years.
This has been one of the most challenging years to face environmentalists in decades, we have seen more attacks and attempts at roll backs then at any other time in modern state history. The governor has taken the side of polluters and put his national political interests above the interests of the people of New Jersey. The Legislature cannot make up its mind to go along with special interests and the Governor or to stand up for the environment. Even though we have seen some defeats, we have had some significant victories for environmental protections.
The governor’s environmental actions and policies in 2011 have weakened some our most critical protections for Barnegat Bay, clean air, and public access.
Pulling out of RGGI
Governor Christie folded to corporate polluters and Tea Party conservatives and announced that New Jersey will be pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a ten state compact to reduce climate change pollution.
Energy Master Plan
The governor also released an Energy Master Plan that rolls back the state’s renewable energy standards from 30 percent of our energy by 2020 to 22.5 percent. The plan also guts clean energy funding, increases our dependence on fracking and non-conventional fossil fuels, and calls for more nuclear. The Governor’s policies have caused the price of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to drop, almost causing the market to crash.
Not supporting important EPA air quality protections
Governor Christie did not sign onto litigation to support EPA rules to clean up coal plants as well as our air. The Cross State Air Pollution rules require coal-producing states to our west to lower their toxic emissions. The rule had the support of PSE&G, Exelon, NJ Chamber of Commerce, and a number of health and environmental groups. Instead of supporting the rule that would address emissions across the country, Governor Christie wants to go after plants one at a time, this will waste taxpayer money and result in long fought cases tied up in the courts instead of actual reductions in air pollutants.
Attacks on the Highlands Region
Over the past two years we have seen Governor Christie appoint individuals to the Highlands Council that have spoken out publicly against Highlands protections and have challenged the science behind the Regional Master Plan. The Governor has slashed funding for the Council and the DEP has held stakeholder meetings to weaken DEP Highlands regulations. The Governor’s State Strategic Plan and the Executive Order implementing it undermines the Council’s planning authority in the Highlands by requiring the Regional Master Plan to conform to the Strategic Plan’s economic goals and declaring the Highlands Existing Community Zone a growth area that should receive sewers.
Barnegat Bay continues to deteriorate
Conditions in the Barnegat Bay get worse while the governor is weakening protections for the waterhed. He vetoed three important bills that would help clean up the Bay. One would have required a limit on nutrient pollution entering the Bay and an action plan to meet those reductions. The other two bills would have cleaned up stormwater entering the Bay. His administration did not require Oyster Creek to install cooling towers, instead allowing the plant to operate for another 10 years, destroying the Bay with superheated pollution. The Barnegat Bay is the second most eutrophied bay in the nation and action must be taken now to better protect it. Governor Christie is doing media events and studies instead of adopting the policies that will clean up the Bay and protect the Jersey Shore’s most heavily used body of water.