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“I Am Green Energy” – Small Business Turns Out To Oppose Christie Clean Energy Cuts

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Joe Navarra, BC Express, HVAC contractors. Toms River, NJ

While Christie Cuts $300 million for job producing energy efficiency and renewable wind & solar, ratepayers get socked with $750 million power line to import more dirty coal power and increase profits

I am Green Energy” said Joe Navarra, General Manager of BC Express HVAC out of Toms River, NJ.

Navarra joined over 200 representatives of clean energy businesses, local governments, labor unions, small contractors, electric & gas utility companies, and environmental advocates to oppose Governor Christie’s proposed $158 million diversion of Clean Energy Program energy efficiency and renewable energy funds at a special public hearing held today in Trenton by the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

The hearing room was so packed that it exceeded fire code and had to be cleared of dozens of people to allow the hearing to continue.

Speaker after speaker praised the popular BPU Clean Energy Program as creating thousands of quality jobs, for saving consumers billions of dollars in utility bills, and for reducing global warming and air pollution emissions. There was a strong consensus that the Governor’s diversion of ratepayer funds from BPU’s energy conservation and renewable energy programs was ill advised, shortsighted, and would hurt economic development, investment, jobs, and the environment.

The League of Municipalities Mayors Taskforce for a Green Future is promoting BPU’s Clean Energy programs and has signed on 255 towns. A spokeswoman noted that although local governments tend to move slowly, they were strongly supporting green energy and rapidly responding to residents’ concerns:

Citizens are demanding that their State be sustainable and their energy be renewable

In my 25 year Trenton experience, I don’t recall a more unified or stronger consensus on any issue among business groups (especially job producing small businesses), labor, environmentalists, and local government.  It also was unusual to see a government program strongly and universally praised and noted for achieving real benefits.

Lee Solomon, President of the Board of Public Utilities

Lee Solomon, President of the Board of Public Utilities

Governor Christie’s new BPU President Lee Solomon was put on the hot seat – and he didn’t even attempt to defend the Governor’s unpopular diversion. He made it clear that the purpose of the hearing was to take public comment on BPU’s “Straw Proposal” for allocating the Governor’s $158 million cut among BPU’s Clean Energy programs.

Ironically, Christie’s selection of Solomon drew early press praise by the NJ Environmental Federation:

“Lee Solomon has the legal, environmental, personal, and political background to ensure a cleaner, greener 21st century”, said Sharon Finlayson, the [NJ Environmental] Federation‘s chairwoman.

In addition to Christie’s energy industry agenda, the BPU is expected to play an important role implementing some of the key pieces of the governor’s environmental agenda including:

Implementing the Global Warming Response Act and Energy Master Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with greater emphasis on clean renewables and energy efficiency;

It is curious that now that Christie has shredded the Global Warming Response Act and diverted over $300 million of clean energy funding, the NJ Environmental Federation was nowhere to be seen at today’s hearing (*the meeting started at 2:30 and I left around 4:30, so I doubt that Dave Pringle was that late).

BPU was spared criticism in managing a difficult situation and their “Straw Proposal” to distributing the cuts drew support. But others focused on the source of the problem:

[Governor Christie’s] Budget cuts crush energy efficiency and job creation progress” said Lia Sims, of Bright Alternatives, a full service energy consulting company out of Atlantic Highlands that conducts energy audits and installation of renewable energy systems.

Environment NJ and the NJ Sierra Club strongly opposed the Governor’s diversions – plus additional diversions of $128 million in Retail Margin Fund and  $65 million from Regional Green House Gas auction proceeds, over $300 million in total – and urged Solomon to talk to Governor Christie about restoring the cuts.

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith – who also sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee – also has opposed the diversion.

This is not a done deal. We’ll keep you posted.

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