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NJ Climate Activists Need To Get Real And Militant

Raise the Bar – Stop Praising Symbolic Gestures

Climate & Clean energy Coaltion kicks off in Trenton - 6/25/15 - I had serious reservation about posting this photo, but decided truth was superior to propaganda

Climate & Clean Energy Coalition kicks off in Trenton – 6/25/15 – I had serious reservation about posting this photo and writing this post, but decided truth was superior to propaganda

We don’t have time to fool around. We have to get militant, very fast.” ~~~ Chris Hedges

I can see the train wreck coming.

Given the cast of characters, it will be a rehash of RGGI with emissions caps 45% above current emissions and all sorts of loopholes and gaps, as we noted at the time:

RGGI’s regional emission reduction goals are modest – 10% by year 2019 – and NJ’s burden is even lighter. NJ’s 22.9 million ton emission share amounts to a 1% reduction from current in state power plant emissions. The RGGI emissions inventory and “caps” do NOT consider emissions from energy imports from coal plants. RGGI does not address 60-70% of the problem from other major green house gas emissions sectors, such as transportation and buildings. So RGGI is only a small part of major efforts that will be required to meet the Corzine GWRA emissions reduction goals.

It will be a rehash of the toothless Global Warming Response Act, which we also noted at the time:

Contrary to media coverage and political spin, simply put, the law amounts to little more than aspirational goals and a misleading sham. Here’s why.

It will be a 80% renewable energy goal that is a mere aspiration without the required increase in the Renewable Portfolio Standards to enforce the goal. The current bill has been gutted, as Bil Potter wrote:

But before the bill was released from committee, key requirements were stripped away. Most important, in its current form there is no increase in the “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS). The RPS mandates the minimum percentage of electricity sold in New Jersey that must come from renewable sources — primarily solar and wind. Without a steady and predictable increase in the RPS, the solar industry goes from boom to bust, whatever the long-term goals are for the state.

I really support your efforts and I really don’t want to say “I told you so” when a new Democratic Governor signs a toothless package of bills in 2018.

So here are some real, short term, and feasible demands that activists should be making, instead of symbolic gestures like Legislative and municipal or county resolutions.

[A far more serious and better tactic and organizing tool is a “Vow of Resistance” like the NY fracktivists used, putting the politicians on notice that people are prepared to put their bodies on the line and engage in civil disobedience.]

Demands are going to have to come from the bottom up, because Trenton lobbyists will not get outside their comfort zones or push Democratic friends.

1. Eliminate the current $50 million cap on liability for spills

2. Put teeth in the Global Warming Response Act by requiring that environmental permits demonstrate compliance with the 80% emission reduction goal over the design life of the project. This would include permit renewals as a ratchet down provision for existing facilities, forcing retrofits (or purchase of carbon offsets if not technologically feasible);

3. Put teeth and close loopholes in current environmental permitting requirements by mandating that the cumulative and lifecycle impacts of a project be considered, including greenhouse gas emissions (link to enforceable standards in #2 above) and public health impacts (like the public health science basis for the NY State fracking moratorium)

4. Closing the gaping loophole in NJ environmental law by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for major projects, along the lines of SEQRA in New York State.

[Update: technically, the NY DEC selection of the “No Action” alternative in the fracking EIS is the legal basis and regulatory tool that implemented the ban on fracking in NY.

It is a freaking amazing coucnicence that I wrote this post this morning, before the NY DEP SEQRA Final decision document was just issued today.

I am proud to note that I attended and testified at the first NYS DEC  SEQRA herring on fracking, see:

5. Restore the renewable portfolio standard increases in the pending 80% renewable energy bill (link above)

6. Eliminate the current 2% cap on solar net metering (like the 80% renewable bill, that bill’s already been gutted too and it hasn’t even passed yet).

7. Close the loopholes in the Highlands Act for pipelines, which are exempted from buffer restrictions(see Section 32 b.(1))

8. Amend the Pinelands Act to prohibit new pipelines and mandate energy efficiency.

9. Put teeth in “green building” codes.

10. Establish a new carbon tax to put a price on carbon and capture the social costs of carbon and use the revenues to finance mass transit infrastructure.

11. Constitutionally dedicate the current Societal Benefits Charge that goes to the Clean Energy Fund.

These are merely stop gap short term tactics that rely on traditional regulatory barriers – offered off the top of my head.

I’m sure there are many more that could be listed (like DEP air permit review requirements – like consideration of GHG emissions and risk assessments tied to real public health standards).

There are other economic regulatory reforms that could be put in place at BPU, like eliminate the cost test from the Off Shore Wind Act, which fails to consider social costs of carbon or environmental benefits.

Nationally, a similar set of demands could be focused on FERC and the National Gas Act.

Real solutions lie in demands to leave fossil in the ground and impose moratoria on fossil fuel extraction, pipelines, trains, ports, and related infrastructure.

Like Chris Hedges said:

We don’t have time to fool around. We have to get militant, very fast.” 

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