New Jersey clean-energy supporters rallied at the state Capitol to urge passage of two bills calling for a rapid transition to a 100 percent clean-energy system statewide.
About 50 people sang songs in support of clean energy and listened to speakers. They equated clean energy as the right decision from the perspectives of improving health, adding high-paying jobs and ending reliance on fossil fuels.
The bills have been introduced by Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-38th District (A1823) and Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-18th District (S1405). Their bills coincide with Gov. Phil Murphy’s top campaign goals concerning clean energy.
“I came from a press conference concerning women’s health,” Diegnan said. “Isn’t it great to be proud once again to live in the state of New Jersey where we can now say that no challenge is beyond our reach? Anyone who tells you that this goal is unreachable is lying to you. This is not only good for our planet and for our future. But it’s also good for our economy. Clean energy creates jobs.”
Eustace said the technology of today did not exist until someone envisioned it and transformed an idea into reality.
“The issue has been a failure of imagination,” Eustace said. “The idea that the technology that we carry in our pockets changes every day. When I was a kid, email did not exist. But you never thought you would be able to do your banking, do your shopping, with the little thing in your pocket that is also your telephone. Then they tell you this is impossible. … Our new governor is on board. The leases for the offshore wind are finally going to move.”
Fr. Gonzalo Torres of Saint Mary’s Church of Pompton Lakes supports the proposed legislation. He came with about 15 members of his church to the rally.
“We are a faith-based community,” Torres said. “As Christians, we believe that we have to protect our environment and our planet — the house that God has given to us. For us, it’s very important to protect our planet. We support this bill for our children and for the children of our children.”
Torres said his congregants join with other churches to lobby elected officials in Trenton.
Jackie Schramm helped form an organization, Franciscan Response to Fracking, and is a parishioner of Saint Mary’s Church. They advocate against fossil fuels and in support of recycling.
“We have been particularly working on the issue of climate change since 2015,” Schramm said. “We presented Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ and packaged it and presented it at many venues. This is an issue that we are working on front and center. We are very excited about this bill. … Let’s get New Jersey on the map for green energy.”
Kevin Moore is the climate resiliency organizer from the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. He said he wanted to provide context for the discussion regarding clean-energy legislation.
“Asthma costs the New Jersey economy about $450 million a year,” Moore said. “That was formally acknowledged in 2009. School-aged children in Newark have doubled the state and national average rate of 25 percent for asthma that results in the most missed school days and unaffordable medical bills. … Asthma is now the leading cause of absenteeism for school-age children in Newark, Bayonne and Elizabeth.”
Other people who took part in the rally included representatives of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the Food & Water Action Fund.
State Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District, released a statement supporting the legislation: “This bill will require our state to undergo a transformation in how it provides power to its citizens. The process may be difficult, but the stakes are too high not to take this action. If we continue burning fossil fuels at the rate we do today, this state will not be livable for our children and our grandchildren. Some may say that 2035 is too soon to expect such a change, but we all know that there is no time to waste.”
In related news, Murphy announced his support for a fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin, as one of the five voting members of the Delaware River Basin Commission.