Home > Uncategorized > Murphy Diverts $136 Million In Clean Energy Funds – Breaks Campaign Pledge On Core Climate and Energy Issues

Murphy Diverts $136 Million In Clean Energy Funds – Breaks Campaign Pledge On Core Climate and Energy Issues

After Rubber Stamping Pollution Settlements, More Continuity With Christie

Harkens back to a “monumental strategic error”- “collateral damage of open space”

Murphy’s version of Obama’s “look forward not back”?

NJ Spotlight reports today that NJ Gov. Murphy’s first budget – “how the governor plans to translate campaign promises into policies and spending priorities – proposes to divert $136 million of Clean Energy Funds to close budget shortfalls, see:

Meet the new boss …

As we’ve written, after all the “green” rhetoric, Murphy and his DEP Commissioner nominee have been a huge disappointment thus far.

While Acting Commissioner McCabe seems to be hiding under her desk in Trenton – is she trying to avoid Judy Yaskin’s fate? – Gov. Murphy has not rescinded Gov. Christie’s anti-regulatory and privatization Executive Orders (#1-#4; #17), but instead has shown a disturbing continuity with some of the worst Christie environmental policies, including:

[Strong reforms and very good people are needed at DEP, to reverse this unfortunate reality: Encap Corruption Has Been Institutionalized at DEP]

It all reminds me of President Obama’s’ “look forward not back” approach, which led to continuity with controversial Bush Administration policies on national security, accountability for torture & CIA black sites, and Wall Street’s crimes and financial bailout.

But getting back to the clean energy diversion issue: During the 2017 Gubernatorial campaign, Murphy slammed Gov. Christie’s diversion of some $1.5 billion in clean energy funds.

Murphy’s energy platform pledged to end the practice and increase investment in energy efficiency and renewables.

Murphy Energy and Environment Transition Report vigorously opposed these diversions:

Under the Christie Administration over $1.5 billion was diverted from the state’s clean energy fund to fill budget shortfalls. The committee recommends the Governor utilize 100% of the clean energy fund to advance energy efficiency, grow the clean-energy economy, create clean-energy jobs and drive down carbon emissions.

But I want to clarify a key historical policy point that the Spotlight story alludes to here:

At one point last year, the Legislature appeared poised to put a constitutional amendment in place that would prevent the diversion of clean-energy funds, but that effort stalled and never made it onto the ballot.

NJ Spotlight was referring to this March 2017 story, about Senator Smith’s initiative he failed to follow through on:

Senator seeks constitutional amendment to end annual raids on Clean Energy Fund

But the issue goes back long before then, to 2013. By failing to mention this history, Spotlight provides cover for and prevents accountability for mistakes made by Keep It Green.

Specifically, the full history involves what I described at the time as a “monumental strategic error” and “collateral damage of open space” (see:  Ballot Politics – Why Was The Climate Ballot Question Abandoned?

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

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. …

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.

The Green Mafia was only interested in money that would be used for their narrow open space acquisition purposes; money  they would receive a piece of; money that would go to protect the backyards of their elite members.

They didn’t give a damn about the public interest or the number one threat: climate change.

And on top of all that, they stole money from State Parks, DEP clean water programs, and toxic site cleanup to fund their selfish narrow purposes. (hit link to the Bergen Record story Budget cuts doom state parks to disrepair):

Some environmentalists say the amendment had an unintended but severe impact on the Natural and Historic Resources capital budget. The budget had been replenished each year from the same tax, a dedication secured in a prior, 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment. That amendment was to provide a “reliable and stable source of funding” that would enable the DEP to make “long-term investments in the state park system,” according to a 2013 draft of the state’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

It provided about $15 million annually, and would have doubled to $32 million in 2016. ...

Mark Texel, head of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, called it a “massive blow” and said in a Facebook post soon after the vote that it was “the darkest day I have faced in my professional career.” [**Note: he called it “worse than Sandy“] …

“We had a plan to really tackle some of these major capital projects that had been deferred for many, many years,” Texel said. “And we were making progress. Suddenly now our capital budget is having the legs cut out from underneath it. … It was disappointing, I admit. I was very disappointed.” …

Bill Wolfe, director of the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said he didn’t believe that voters in 2014 knew this would happen.

He accused NJ Keep It Green of “intentionally, knowingly” stripping state parks of capital funding to finance Green Acres so they wouldn’t have to ask voters to approve a bond. That, he said, let open space groups avoid a public brawl with Governor Christie, who has demanded no new debt be placed on taxpayers. The coalition, he said, “didn’t have the spine to fight for the money.”

And they now again dodge accountability – but we don’t forget this stuff.

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