Gov. Phil Murphy touted the “renewable-energy economy” of his first 15 months in office, while taking jabs at the environmental policies of his Republican predecessor, former Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy, at his first ever “State of the Board of Public Utilities” address on Wednesday afternoon, said he envisions the state as the “national model for smart, future-driven energy policy-making” with the state’s utilities regulatory agency at the forefront.
“For eight years, BPU was put into a silo as just a regulatory agency, and not much more. Plans for offshore wind had been shelved. Our dominance in the solar energy sector had begun to wane,” Murphy said Wednesday in his prepared remarks.
The Democratic governor pointed to his plans to have the state entirely reliant on renewable, non-fossil fuel forms of energy by 2050, which includes the generation of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, and a community solar program aimed at making solar energy accessible to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Murphy also unveiled plans for the state to rejoin the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, aimed at clamping down member states’ carbon footprint, as well as a total opposition to fracking and any fracking waste in the Delaware Basin watershed.
“We went from a sleepy regulatory agency to an international powerhouse [today],” NJBPU President Joe Fiordaliso said.
Indeed, the agency is tasked with regulating any utility companies – electricity, heating, gas and water – doing business in the state.
But Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said he was uneasy about a heavy-handed approach by the state government for bolstering the energy industry.
“Government’s role should be as a facilitator in bringing in new environmentally-friendly technologies to market and promoting greater energy efficiency,” Cantor said in a statement to NJBIZ. “Real change will be driven by public demand, not government programs.”
This past weekend, Christie shot back at Murphy, saying he was hypocritical for promoting environmentally-friendly policies on the one hand, and staying silent on a controversial natural gas-fired power plant proposed for the Meadowlands, according to a report by NJ.com.
Environmentalists agreed with Christie on that matter, a rare moment in New Jersey politics.
“Murphy can’t have it both ways, having 100 percent clean energy goals and keeping quiet on the Meadowlands power plants,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said Wednesday in a statement. “It was Christie who stopped offshore wind and promoted natural gas pipelines and power plants.
“New Jersey will never get to achieve its full wind or solar potential if we keep on building more natural gas plants like the one in the Meadowlands and pipelines like PennEast,” Tittel added. “The proposed fossil fuel projects in New Jersey would undermine our efforts to reduce carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future.”