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Ballot Politics – Why Was The Climate Ballot Question Abandoned?

A Monumental Strategic Error

Major Climate Initiative Becomes Collateral Damage of Open Space 

While NJ Democrats and conservation groups & Land Trusts spike the ball and bask in their pyrrhic opens space victory – just as the debate on the damaging impacts of the diversions finally has begun to emerge – an even bigger problem is being ignored.

A proposed climate change ballot question was effectively sacrificed on the alter of the Open Space Ballot question.

There has been no mention of the fact that in late December 2013, at the same time that the open space ballot debate came to a head in the Legislature, there was a climate change Senate Resolution released from Committee.

Specifically, on December 12, 2013, the Senate Environment Committee combined SCR162 (Lesniak) and released a Resolution,  SCR146 (Smith):

Amends Constitution to require State’s participation in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and dedicates any revenues realized therefrom to certain clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction programs.

At that time, it was discussed in Committee and possible that the Resolution could be expanded to also dedicate the $350 million per year in Societal Benefits Charge revenues that go to the Clean Energy Fund. That revenue dwarfs the $45-$50 million in RGGI revenues.

Governor Christie has diverted over $1 billion from the Clean Energy Fund, so the argument in support of Constitutional dedication of that money is very strong.

Despite the fact that climate change is by far the most critical “environmental” issue, not one member of the Keep It Green Coalition – not one – testified in support of the climate Resolution.

Why didn’t groups like Sierra Club, NJ Environmental Federation & Environment NJ link the two Resolutions and demand support of the climate Resolution in exchange for their support of the Open Space Resolution?

A Constitutional Ballot question could have provided an excellent platform to mount a huge public education and advocacy campaign on climate change and the need to fund GHG reduction programs. It would have coincided perfectly with the organizing for the People’s Climate March.

Instead, those groups sat by quietly as the climate Resolution was abandoned.

Instead those groups unconditionally supported the Open Space diversion.

Instead those groups – even after being betrayed by KIG and Democrats – now cheerlead symbolic gestures on climate by the same Democrats who abandoned a substantive climate initiative to dedicate $400 million per year to greenhouse gas reduction programs!

Senator Smith has not reintroduced the RGGI Resolution this Legislative session, nor has Senator Lesniak.

The opportunity was squandered.

Another shameful episode in Trenton politics and another huge collateral damage of the open space diversion disaster.

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