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Greens Press NJ Gov. Murphy For Fossil Moratorium

Gov. Murphy’s Climate and Energy Commitments On The Line 

Moratorium can kill pending fossil projects without new legislation

A broad coalition of over 50 climate, community and environmental groups yesterday kicked off the long awaited statewide campaign to pressure NJ Gov. Murphy to enact a moratorium on new fossil infrastructure (see: Dave Levitsky’s Burlington County Times story:

While the governor has restored the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and promoted solar and offshore wind energy development with the goal of the state having its power come entirely from clean or renewable sources by 2050, the assembled environmental groups said they had expected Murphy would have acted sooner to put a halt to gas pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.

“We have marched and protested, written letters and signed petitions, attended hearings and spoken in front of commissions for over three years,” said Agnes Marsala, president of the grassroots group, People Over Pipelines. “The only thing that gave us hope was the promise of a new administration in Trenton. We had hoped if we delayed until a new governor could begin to undo the damage caused by (former Gov. Chris) Christie and his fossil fuel cronies, there was a chance the (Southern Reliability Link) could be halted.”

“Murphy has been in charge now for 11 months and things remain unchanged … We need your help. You could stop the SRL and all new fossil fuel infrastructure with a stroke of a pen. Declare a moratorium now. Today,” she said.

Way to go Ag! (People Over Pipelines – photo))

I’ve written extensively about the moratorium issue, so will make just one important point today.

I hope that the campaign gets unified on this important point, because it is essential to holding the Gov. accountable, particularly given the Gov.’s Office initial response: (NJ Spotlight)

Asked to respond, Alyana Alfaro, deputy press secretary for the governor, said: “Governor Murphy has directed his team to take a hard look at energy infrastructure projects as part of an updated Energy Master Plan, which will set New Jersey on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.’’

Gov. Murphy clearly has the executive power to declare a moratorium on BPU and DEP approvals of new fossil infrastructure.

The Gov. does not require new legislation to implement the moratorium.

The Gov. can not rely exclusively on the BPU Energy Master Plan process, but instead needs to step up, set policy, and direct BPU and DEP via Executive Order.

The Gov.’s moratorium can extend during a State planning and regulatory process by BPU and DEP and remain in place until new plans, policies and regulations are formally adopted by both BPU and DEP.

Prior Gov.’s Executive moratoria have survived legal challenge in NJ. Additionally, the use of a moratorium has been upheld by the US Supreme Court in the “Lake Tahoe” case, where a moratorium was linked to a planning process.

The moratorium can be implemented on a permanent basis, based on new BPU and DEP plans, policies and regulations developed while the moratorium was in effect.

There is no need for new legislation. All the pending fossil projects can be killed by the Gov.’s executive powers.

Gov. Murphy’s reliance on revisions to the BPU Energy Master Plan are not inconsistent with a moratorium.

The best model for how to do that is former Gov. Florio’s 120 day moratorium on State agency approvals of pending garbage incinerator projects, via Executive Order #8.

The key language of EO#8 is:

During the Task Force’s deliberations over the next 120 days, the following shall apply:

a. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a final approval of any solid waste management plan that sites increases the capacity of or approves financing for waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

b. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a approval of Preliminary or Final Environmental and Health Impact Statements for any waste-to-energy resource recovery site or facility;

c. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue tentative or final approval of any solid waste facility engineering design now pending or hereafter submitted for any waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

d. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities and the Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs shall not, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:1E-136 et seq., issue any approval or conditional approval of any previously submitted proposed contract for the design, financing, construction, operation or maintenance of a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility; and

e. No State agency, commission or organization shall approve the issuance of debt or extend financing to any person or entity for use in planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, operating or maintaining a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility.

The Solid Waste Task Force submitted recommendations to Gov. Florio. The key recommendation was that garbage incineration was a “technology of last resort” and should be actively discouraged by DEP and not approved until other all options (i.e. source reduction, recycling, & composting) were exhausted.

Florio agreed with them and directed DEP to revise the State Solid Waste Management Plan based on those recommendations.

DEP then adopted a new Solid Waste Management Plan that erected barriers to incineration. All the pending garbage incinerators were killed by the Florio Order and new DEP Solid Waste Management Plan.

There was no new legislation required to kill the incinerators and shift the State policy and financial support from incineration to source reduction, maximum feasible recycling and composting.

Similar to the Florio new solid waste management plan and technology policy, fossil infrastructure could be declared a “technology of last resort” to be “phased out” to attain the Gov.’s 100% renewable energy goals and the GHG emission reductions of the Global Warming Response Act.

Just like source reduction, recycling and composting alternative strategies for garbage, Murphy could mandate new energy demand reduction, energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart grid policies as alternatives to  fossil infrastructure.

In the current case, Gov. Murphy could:

1) Issue an Executive Order that declared a climate emergency;

2) The Order would impose a moratorum on State agency approvals of new fossil infrastructure;

3) The Order would establish a Climate Emergency, fossil infrastructure, and renewable energy transition Task Force and direct them to make recommendations to BPU and DEP.

4) The Order would direct the Task force to focus on how to achieve the GHG emission reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act and transition to Gov. Murphy’s 100% renewable energy goals.

5) The Order would direct BPU to revise the Energy Master Plan to comply with the Gov.’s approved recommendations and direct DEP to adopt regulations would enforce the recommendations.

It is important that folks working on the campaign clearly understand this and get that message to the Gov. and the media.

Don’t let the Gov. make an excuse that he needs new legislation and don’t let him rely exclusively on the BPU Energy Master Plan process.

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