New Jersey must adopt a more aggressive timetable for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, a coalition of environmental groups said Wednesday. Their reason: the Murphy administration is failing to achieve the needed reductions in pollution to throttle back global warming.
The state must cut greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, said the groups, many of whom backed Gov. Phil Murphy in his first election bid four years ago. Murphy, now campaigning for reelection, has set an aggressive policy for green energy, but he is falling short on cutting back greenhouse gases, they said.
In a formal petition filed by 58 organizations, the groups are asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to adopt that benchmark — a standard already adopted by 14 other states and the Biden administration — as well as how the reductions will be achieved by denying permits for new fossil-fuel projects.
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The dispute is significant because most of the organizations have backed the administration’s ambitious clean-energy goals, which seek to transition the state to 100% clean energy by 2050. At a news conference Wednesday to announce the petition, however, critics argued New Jersey is lagging behind other states as well as the federal government in addressing the worsening climate crisis.
That charge comes as evidence of climate change is mounting across the globe, according to the petition. “Not a day goes by without headlines reporting record-breaking heat waves, droughts, unprecedented flooding, raging wildfires and stronger and more frequent hurricanes,’’ the 21-page petition from Empower NJ said.
Advocates repeatedly argued the need to stop new fossil-fuel projects, including new pipelines and natural-gas power plants. “Natural gas is not a bridge to the future but a highway over a cliff,’’ said David Pringle, a steering committee member of Empower NJ.
Urging state to act faster
“The state has to act faster if we are to save money, create the jobs and achieve the clean energy targets and mandated by the Global Warming Response Act and the 2019 Energy Master Plan,’’ Pringle said.
The Global Response Warming Act, enacted by former Gov. Jon Corzine, mandated an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, a goal many environmentalists argue will not be achieved unless benchmarks are set to reduce more emissions early on.
“We can’t afford to backload those reductions into the 2040s,’’ Pringle said.
Under the petition, the DEP has 60 days to either accept or reject the proposed petition, although the timeframe could be extended if the agency requests more information from the petitioners.
If the department rejects the petition, there is not much recourse for the coalition. “It sets down a marker for the election,’’ said Jeff Tittel, the former director of the Sierra Club, referring to the November gubernatorial election.
For the most part, the coalition wants the state to establish a goal for a legally binding requirement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030, a target set by the International Panel on Climate Change that must be realized to avoid the worst case of runaway climate catastrophe.
If Murphy wants to live up to his climate commitments, then he must take bold action to cut climate pollution in half by the end of this decade, said Matt Smith, New Jersey state director of Food & Water Watch.
The DEP did not respond to questions from NJ Spotlight News about the coalition’s petition.