LETTER – Good First Week for the Environment, Nuclear Bill on the Horizon

Last week has been filled with important environmental initiatives for New Jersey. Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order to put New Jersey back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an Executive Order to begin the process of reaching our offshore wind goals, proposed a full ban on fracking in New Jersey and reversed New Jersey’s position to support Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The Oyster Creek Generating Plant has announced they will close in October 2018.

“Phil Murphy has done more for climate change and clean energy last week than Chris Christie did in his entire eight years as Governor. The best part of the week was watching Governor Murphy reverse Governor Christie’s rollbacks on climate change, clean energy, and fracking. Over the course of the week, New Jersey has been put back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has kick-started its offshore wind goals, has proposed a full ban on fracking and has dropped the suit Governor Christie filed against the Clean Power Plan so that New Jersey can support the CPP and sue against the Trump Administration’s repeal of the plan. The week ended on a high note with the announcement that New Jersey’s most dangerous nuclear plants will be closing by October 2018,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Last week was a great week for the environment however we still have the nuclear subsidy bill to fight.”

On Monday, January 29th, Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order to put New Jersey back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  RGGI is a ten-state regional compact to reduce climate change, air pollution and fund clean energy projects. Governor Christie pulled us out of RGGI without consulting the Legislature in August of 2015. The other participating RGGI states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. RGGI worked by helping to create almost 1,800 jobs and reducing pollution. New Jersey has missed out on over $100 million of RGGI funds and another $500 million if we stay out of RGGI.

“New Jersey has been put back into RGGI, thanks to Governor Murphy Executive Order. This is hopefully just the beginning of many days where we move forward on climate change and clean energy. People in our state have seen the impacts of climate change firsthand and demand action. The money collected from RGGI will help environmental programs, expand renewable energy, create jobs, reduce greenhouse gases, and help middle class families save money on their electric bills,” said Tittel. “Now we can go forward with the benefits of the program to make us cleaner and greener”.

On Tuesday, January 30th, the state of New Jersey withdrew our lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. In October of 2015, Governor Christie added New Jersey to a list of 27 other states suing against the plan created to make our air cleaner and reduce greenhouse gasses. In March, President Trump signed an Executive Order today to eliminate the plan. Carbon pollution is linked to life-threatening air pollution like the smog that triggers asthma attacks, making it a serious hazard to Americans’ health and future. Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, are suing against the Trump Administration’s repeal of this plan.

 “The Christie Administration was suing against Obama’s Clean Power Plan until last Tuesday when the Murphy Administration dropped the suit. Now New Jersey can sue with the Sierra Club and other states to implement the CPP that Trump is trying to repeal. The Clean Power Plan is a win-win-win for NJ and it’s important that the Murphy Administration has removed New Jersey from the dangerous lawsuit against it. We’re back to being an environmental leader like we were when we first sued to get air protections established,” said Jeff Tittel. “Even though the Trump Administration is trying to repeal the plan, it’s important for New Jersey to support being in it. We certainly cannot do that if we’re suing against it. Dropping this lawsuit shows that we agree with the CPP and support these environmental initiatives.”

On Wednesday, January 31th, Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order to begin the process of reaching our offshore wind goal of 3500 MW by 2030. The Order also directs the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to put in place a funding mechanism to make it happen. Under Christie, New Jersey had a lack of initiative from our government on implementing the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) and create a financing mechanism to make wind power a reality. Seven years ago, Christie signed the Act, but the Administration has failed to make offshore wind a reality off our coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) even auctioned leases for offshore wind off our coast, but without financing rules the Christie Administration will block these projects from happening. Now we can begin the process of having offshore wind in New Jersey.

“We are finally moving towards our offshore wind goals with Murphy’s Executive Order. His Order will jumpstart our wind program to help us reach our goal of 3500 MW offshore wind by 2030. Offshore wind will provide electricity and jobs to places where it’s needed most. We’ve been working on implementing offshore wind in New Jersey for fifteen years and are happy to see if finally happening,” said Jeff Tittel.

On Thursday, February 1st, Governor Murphy sent a letter to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) outlining how New Jersey will vote via their proposed fracking ban. Murphy will vote to support the ban in full, meaning only if it includes banning taking and dumping frack water. The DRBC is continuing their hearing process for their fracking ban proposal. They can make amendments to the proposal after the hearings to add additional protections.

“Murphy supporting a full ban on fracking is a big victory for the environment, water, and communities of the Delaware Basin. Governor Murphy is stepping up to protect the 17 million people who depend on the region for drinking water from the hazards of fracking including the over 3 million in NJ. Murphy supports the DRBC’s proposed ban on fracking as well as strengthening the ban to include no dumping or taking of water for frack activities. With his leadership we need to get the other Governors to also support a full DRBC ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin,” said Jeff Tittel. 

On Friday, February 2nd, 2018, Exelon Generation has announced that they will close Oyster Creek Generating Station in October 2018. This is a year ahead of their scheduled closure date of December 2019 and a decade earlier than they are licensed for.

Due to safety and environmental reasons, Oyster Creek closing early is a victory. The plant has had one problem after another. Equipment failure, inspector violations, tritium leaks, compressor problems, pump problems, drywall liner erosion… and the list keeps growing. Oyster Creek has been a safety threat to Ocean County, polluting Barnegat Bay, and killing thousands of fish over the years. Shutting down the Oyster Creek plant will reduce the algae blooms, improve fish populations and help restore the overall ecosystem of the Barnegat Bay. As we celebrate the  closing of the dangerous Oyster Creek, we must continue working to stop this nuclear subsidy sell-out and instead push for safe, renewable energy in New Jersey.”

The nuclear subsidy bill, S877 and its amendments will be voted on today, February 5th in Senate Budget and Appropriations.

“One of the clouds on the horizon is nuclear subsidy bill. S877 is an excuse to subsidize nuclear power. The so called green amendments on this bill is a green cover for a bad bill. These changes are just empty promises for the environment. The nuclear bill would seriously hamper, if not block, Murphy’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. We’re rushing this bill before we get it right. The Legislature has no need to push through this bill that will severely interfere with Governor Murphy’s clean energy goal. We need to keep fighting this nuclear subsidy and move towards a clean energy economy,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. This is a good first week, but there is a lot more ahead of us. We still have more work to do to move NJ forward with electric vehicles, clean energy, and environmental protections such as clean air, clean water, and open space.