On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 100, directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to make sweeping regulatory reforms, branded as Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT), to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. With this executive action, New Jersey is the first state in the nation to pursue such a comprehensive and aggressive suite of climate change regulations.
Murphy wants to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and the Global Warming Response Act mandate of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2006 levels. Murphy says the Energy Master Plan addresses New Jersey’s energy system, including electricity generation, transportation and buildings, and their associated greenhouse gas emissions and related air pollutants.
Through his executive order, Murphy will require the state Department of Environmental Protection to begin the process of drafting new regulations to be adopted by January 2022. The changes do not require legislative approval but could face legal and political challenges.
The Energy Master Plan is the first of a series of steps to ensure that New Jersey generates, uses and manages its energy supply in a way that is consistent with economic, climate and societal demands. The Energy Master Plan outlines seven key strategies and includes an implementation plan that lays out next steps and timelines.
“This suite of regulations draws the line in the sand against climate change,” Murphy said. “Stockton [where the governor signed the order] is a gem in the New Jersey crown. We are a few miles away from where New Jersey’s first wind energy farm will be.”
Turning the tide
Citing Rutgers University, Murphy said researchers predict the New Jersey shore will see sea levels rise by one foot by 2030 and two feet by 2050. “Sea level rise is our problem,” Murphy said.
Energy Master Plan key strategies:
- Reducing Energy Consumption and Emissions from the Transportation Sector
- Accelerating Deployment of Renewable Energy and Distributed Energy Resources
- Maximizing Energy Efficiency and Conservation and Reducing Peak Demand
- Reducing Energy Consumption and Emissions from the Building Sector
- Decarbonizing and Modernizing New Jersey’s Energy System through planning and establishment of Integrated Distribution Plans
- Supporting Community Energy Planning and Action in Underserved Communities
- Expand the Clean Energy Innovation Economy
“Importantly, we have taken action on key initiatives,” Murphy said. “We put in place a strong law to prevent offshore oil and gas drilling from impacting our precious New Jersey shore. … Last week, we enacted an ambitious plan to expand electric vehicle use.”
“We are the first state to do what we are doing,” Murphy said.
The executive order includes several regulatory actions including establishing a greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting program to identify all significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, adopting new regulations under the Air Pollution Control Act establishing criteria to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and short-lived climate pollutants, and reforming New Jersey environmental land use regulations to incorporate climate change considerations into permitting decisions.
Cheers and jeers
“It is important that Gov. Murphy signed an executive order requiring DEP to go forward with rule-making on dealing with climate change and impacts,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said.” This may be one of the most comprehensive packages in the country. Murphy’s EO is critical, especially since New Jersey is one of the top states most at risk in the country for sea level rise, flooding, and climate damage.
However, Tittel continued: “The EO doesn’t make up for the shortcomings of the administration to really change and update the EMP to deal with climate urgency. New Jersey and the planet are in the middle of a climate emergency and the EMP still does not have emergency action or deliverables.
“We are disappointed that the administration did not fix and update the EMP to deal with deficiencies of the plan,” Tittel said. “The EMP still defines clean energy to include incinerators, natural gas, biogas and others. It does not call for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects or a 45 percent reduction of emissions by 2030, and will not get the state to zero carbon by 2050.”
Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-21st District, called on Murphy to take a more thoughtful approach to ramp-up clean energy.
“A significant amount of the state’s energy comes from natural gas, which has substantially reduced pollution and energy bills,” said Bramnick. “Any plan needs to include natural, and if his plan is going to stop development in New Jersey that calls for serious legislative hearings.”
New Jersey residents and businesses pay some of the highest electric rates in the country, and they have increased since Democrats added surcharges to utility bills, Bramnick said.
“Once again he doesn’t take into account what people can afford if it doesn’t help his agenda,” Bramnick said. “The state shouldn’t be making it more difficult for people to make ends meet.”
A group of 14 public interest and business groups jointly expressed their support for the final New Jersey Energy Master Plan. The organizations are ATNJ Education Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, ISLES, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, NJ League of Conservation Voters, NJ Sustainable Business Council, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, ReThink Energy NJ, The Nature Conservancy of New Jersey Chapter, The Watershed Institute, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
“While the ambitious goals set forth in today’s announcement are laudable, we remain very concerned by the overall cost impacts to ratepayers and businesses in the execution of this plan – particularly as there has yet to be a ratepayer impact study,” said New Jersey Business & Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor.
The association also questioned the feasibility and reliability of a rushed abandonment of the use of natural gas, an energy source that heats more than 75 percent of New Jersey’s homes and businesses, and generates more than 50 percent of our electricity.
Moreover, “[w]e also have great concerns that the Executive Order announced today as part of the EMP will have a direct, negative impact on manufacturing and industry in the state – without any significant carbon reductions,” Cantor concluded.