The New Jersey Environmental Federation Tuesday endorsed Republican challenger Chris Christie for governor and joined with him for the release of his environmental agenda.
The NJEF's endorsement is the first ever of a Republican in a statewide race.
"Chris Christie is the environmental candidate in this year's governor's race - he has laid out by far the most impressive green agenda," said Sharon Finlayson, who heads the Vote Environment Committee, the NJEF's political arm. "Throughout our rigorous, exhaustive process, Christie consistently expressed a strong commitment to the environment and certainly demonstrated a willingness to work with us. We're excited to endorse him for governor - the first time we've endorsed a Republican in a statewide race and we welcome it!"
Earlier in the campaign, Independent candidate Chris Daggett gained the endorsement of the Sierra Club of New Jersey.
Christie welcomed the endorsement.
"I am prepared to work as a partner with the New Jersey Environmental Federation to achieve our shared goals of both protecting our precious natural resources and promoting the creation of clean energy jobs,'' he said in Trenton. "Governor Corzine has consistently bowed to political pressure from industry polluters on regulations, sacrificing our environment in the process. In a Christie administration, we can and will enforce environmental protections while encouraging emerging industries to grow our economy and create sustainable jobs."
Earlier this year, Chris unveiled his "Energy as Industry" plan, which focused on attempting to make New Jersey the leader in renewable energy manufacturing by supporting green technology. The plan calls for advocating, promoting and marketing renewable energy through Christie's personal advocacy, aggressive marketing campaigns, and incentives that would be designed to make it easier for companies to locate and grow in New Jersey.
Finlayson highlighted three of the Christie platform's planks she said Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine disagrees with:
Enacting policies in his first 100 days to stop the fish slaughter resulting from flawed cooling systems at the Salem and Oyster Creek nuclear plants;
Strengthening the state's clean water program, weakened, Finlayson said by the Corzine administration, to protect New Jersey's most important waters also in the first 100 days; and
Opposing the proposed Linden coal plant, recognizing the environmental injustice it places on a community already overburdened by pollution.
"I voted to endorse our governor in 2005, but he has been hugely disappointing - breaking too many environmental promises and failing to effectively lead," said Ben Forest, an NJEF and VEC board member. "I believe Mr. Christie shares our core environmental values and have found him to be a good listener. I like his environmental agenda and believe him when he says ‘we will not always agree', but we will be partners in his administration when he is elected. "
Forest also said, "Christie's green agenda stands in stark contrast to the governor's positions.'' He said, for example, some other key planks in Christie's environmental platform include:
Requiring retrofits of diesel engines and equipment with pollution control devices used in large state road construction projects;
Opposing the environmental and economic boondoggle that is the Delaware Deepening, over which the governor ceded control to Pennsylvania; and
Restoring the state Division of Science and Research, which Corzine abolished.
"We believe that the environment has once again been ill-served by one party rule in this state," said David Tykulsker, another NJEF and VEC board member. "As a result, we have the worst (anti-environmental) state Legislature in recent memory. The governor, as leader of the majority, had a responsibility to work hard to turn this around, a responsibility he shrank away from. This was a major part of why he did not earn our endorsement."
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) Corzine's lieutenant governor candidate, reacted to the endorsement by strongly criticizing Christie's proposed environmental policies.
"Over the last several years under the governor's leadership, working with members of the Legislature, New Jersey has become a national leader in environmental policy," Weinberg said. "Christie continues to be wrong when it matters most and would turn back the clock on the common sense environmental initiatives that we have fought for over the last four years. We are committed to making sure our kids will have clean water and fresh air for generations to come, while Christie is committed to the same failed environmental policies of the Bush Republicans."
Weinberg noted that last week former vice president Al Gore, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on climate change, said, "There are a lot of people that you meet in our democracy, in government, and in politics. There are very few that have the humanity and decency and combination of talents and skills and deep, deep compassion for the people he serves than Jon Corzine. He is the real deal."
NJEF is the state's largest environmental group. It claims 100,000 individual members and an additional 100 member groups. It is the Garden State chapter of the Washington-based Clean Water Action.
The Vote Environment Committee has endorsed over 100 Democrats, nearly that many Republicans and a handful of Independents over more than 20 years.
"We need a backstop from the governor's office,'' said Amy Goldsmith, NJEF state director. "Someone who is not afraid of controversy and saying ‘no more' in the name of protecting the environment, public heath, ethics and creating a green economy for all. It is undeniable that Chris Christie is such a person. And we are pleased to join some of our closest allies/environmental champions in the Republican Party, like (state Senators) Bill Baroni, Tom Kean and (Rep.) Leonard Lance, today as we all commit to delivering on this agenda."
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM