By Jeff Tittel
We are halfway through Gov. Phil Murphy’s term in office and he has failed to show leadership on many key issues. He puts out press releases and executive orders but doesn’t deliver on many of his promises. The administration hasn’t addressed the climate urgencyor the impacts to our state. They have not repealed a single Christie-era rule or environmental rollback and many Christie appointees are still in the DEP. The administration hasn’t taken action when it comes to pollution in our waterwaysor lead in our drinking water.Two years in, Governor Murphy can no longer hide behind the fact that he is not Chris Christie.
There’s a big splash when Murphy comes out with a policy, but there’s no follow through. Over a year ago, he supported a fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin, but as chairman of the Delaware River Basin Commission he didn’t adopt a rule to do so.
Because of public pressure he came out against the Meadowlands Power Plant, but has not changed the rules to prevent the plant from getting built. The governor committed to 100% clean energy by 2050, but has redefined clean energyto include dirty energy like incinerators and natural gas and fossil fuel plants. We rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a group that Gov. Chris Christie abandoned, but he’s not targeting reductions in environmental justice communities and funds from the initiative are allowed to go to natural gas plants.
The governor called for immediate action on climate change, but he hasn’t introduced any new rules dealing with climate change or sea level rise. New Jersey is still the only state in the region without a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plan and we don’t regulate CO2 or greenhouse gases. Murphy opposes a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, meanwhileover a dozen projectsare moving forward. We are subsidizing nuclear energybut have a cost cap blocking solar. New Jersey is the second fastest warming stateand we have built more homesin flood-prone areas than almost any other state.
The administration downplayed the seriousness of our drinking water problems. They did not deal quickly with Newark’s water crisis. A bond act is not a solution, it will take too long and is not enough money. They made a commitment for The Drinking Water Quality Institute to set new standards, but they haven’t allowed them to meet in over a year. They have not eliminated Christie’s rollbacks or strengthened important water rules like the Flood Hazard Rulesand Coastal Area Facility Review Act.
Normally, the legislature tries to weaken strong bills from the governor, but this administration has done the opposite. There was consensus between the legislature and the business community on the Beach Access Bill, but the administration undermined it to block public access. They removed black carbon and real targets for reducing GHG emissions from theCarbon Billand tried to lower targets for electric vehicles and charging stations for the Electric Vehicle bill. They also and made proposals to weaken thePlastic Bag Ban Bill and the Environmental Justice Bill.
Murphy’s first year was the only time in history that a governor didn’t propose any new environmental rules or nominations. Now, he is moving forward, but some of the new rules actually weaken protections, likethe stormwater rule that was criticized by Trump’s FEMAand a rule that eliminates transparency from toxic cleanups. Though he made good nominations, he failed to fight toget those nominations through the Senate.
Governor Murphy campaigned to increase environmental funding, but we are 10th in the nationfor environmental funding cuts. Governor Murphy committed to have 100 more DEP staffers than Christie, but instead we are 150 below Christie and there are currently no licensed planners in the Office of State Planning. He promised to stop the bear hunt, but instead he extended it and introduced a new rule blocking information. Our offshore wind goal has gone up to 7,500 megawatts by 2035, but there’s no rule in place to make it happen.
Since last year, the Murphy Administration has made some progress. They moved toupgrade important streams to C1, put in place some good programs, and vetoedsome bad bills, but that’s not enough. We have some of the toughest environmental problems in the country, and the governor needs to show leadership and action to get us to 100% renewable and zero carbon, get lead out of our drinking water and clean up our waterways. He still has time to get this done, and our future depends on him.
Jeff Tittel is the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
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