Archive for January, 2020

NJ Future And Democratic Legislators About To Screw NJ Residents To Protect Private Water Company Profits And Investor Returns

January 29th, 2020 No comments

Burden Of Paying Put On Residents, Not Corporations & Investors

Billions of Dollars In Water Infrastructure Investments Involved

NJ Spotlight reports today that Democratic legislators are moving legislation [S253[1R] that would dramatically shift the costs of paying for critical public health protections away from private water companies and their investors to NJ homeowners and businesses:

The cost of upgrading the infrastructure remains a thorny issue, as reflected in a late change to S-253 on how the cost should be divided. A late amendment to the bill would require investor-owned utilities to bear 60% of the cost of replacing lead service lines, with ratepayers paying for the remainder — a change from language in the original bill that would require ratepayers to pay only 25% of the bill.

The bill’s sponsors, Singleton and state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer), agreed to the 60-40 formula after discussions with stakeholders including the state Department of Environmental Protection, Board of Public Utilities and the Governor’s Office, said David Smith, Singleton’s policy coordinator.

Why are the Murphy administration and Democratic legislators protecting private water company profits and investor returns over the interests of everyday people?

Billions of dollars are at stake.

This is really not surprising given the NJ Democratic Party’s support of privatization of water and sewer systems (and that terrible fast tracking privatization law passed!)

And just as we predictedNJ Future supported private corporate interests and the allocation of a larger burden of costs to ratepayers.

But NJ Future – echoing the greed of private water companies – went even further to argue that people should pay 100% of the infrastructure upgrade costs, with private companies paying ZERO!

The utilities, for example, want ratepayers to pay the whole cost of infrastructure upgrades — but that, he said, would be “unfair.”

New Jersey Future, too, wants ratepayers in all but the most impoverished areas to pay all the cost for lead service line replacement, [NJ Future’s] Sturm said. She argued that the costs would be modest when spread across most ratepayers.

We predicted exactly this would happen:

Today, privatization and Foundation abuses combine, in an effort to hijack the agenda for responding to the public health crisis of lead in drinking water, see: Jersey Water Works Forms Task Force Focused on Lead in State’s Drinking Water. […]

The work of the Task Force is under the control of NJ Future, a “planning” group with a corporate and development oriented Board and a very checkered political history, going back to “smart growth” collaboration with the Whitman administration and more recently including secret planning with the Christie administration to privatize and develop Liberty State Park, a failed scheme (as the Bergen Record reported:)

Of course, the Task Force includes several representatives of the water companies that seek to avoid high cost real solutions, like regulatory mandates and community involvement to solving the lead problems.

NJ Future is not a public health, environmental or public interest group. They are a private group who represent corporate and development interests. They have no membership other than the corporate interests on their Board and the private foundations who fund them.They are a classic example of what I’ve called Green Cannibals.

Why is NJ Future considered a legitimate public “Stakeholder” by Legislators and the media spokespersons on this critical public issue?

I fired off this email to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle and his editor John Mooney:

Jon – your report today:

“New Jersey Future, too, wants ratepayers in all but the most impoverished areas to pay all the cost for lead service line replacement, Sturm said. She argued that the costs would be modest when spread across most ratepayers.”

You need to disclose to readers who NJ Future represents – look at their Board and look at who funds them. Look at the membership of the coalition they are involved in and who funds them. NJ Future is NOT a public interest, public health, or environmental advocacy group. Your readers deserved to know that. And why would such a private and biased group be the lead spokesperson on a public health issue?

We warned folks that exactly this would happen, see:

Foundation Elites and Private Water Companies Hijack Lead In Drinking Water Issue

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Highly Touted “Transformative” Electric Vehicle Program Has Negligible – If ANY – Impact On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

January 26th, 2020 No comments

Proponents did not even attempt to quantify greenhouse gas emissions

Number of EV’s On Road Goals Are Based on 16 Year Old Clean Car Legislation

In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness. ~~~ Al Gore (7/20/08), quoted here.

The transportation sector historically has had the highest carbon intensity, which continues in the projection because carbon-intensive petroleum remains the dominant fuel used in vehicles throughout the projection period. ~~~ US Energy Information Administration 2020 Forecast

I’ve posted 3 times now on major flaws in the NJ electric vehicle legislation signed into law  last Friday (see this and this and this).

But according to Gov. Murphy: (emphases mine)

Increasing the use of electric vehicles is a critical step to secure New Jersey’s clean energy future. By establishing aggressive goals and strong incentives for electric vehicles, we are repositioning our economy and state for a clean future. Today, I am proudly signing bipartisan legislation that will transform New Jersey’s transportation sector and modernize our infrastructure to support our goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

After watching the shameless self congratulation, self promotion, and fawning praise and sycophantic spin during the Gov.’s bill signing ceremony – watch it on You Tube – today we provide the most recent and readily accessible DEP greenhouse gas emissions data to try to fact check Gov. Murphy’s claims and to get a back of the envelope quantitative sense of what this highly touted EV program means in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and whether reductions will comport with the urgent timeframe based on science.

We will try to make this simple, even for the math challenged. I urge supporters of the bill to email me to tell me what I missed, got wrong, and/or left out.

1. The EV goals are not “aggressive”

We start by noting that the EV law created what has been described as an “aggressive goal” of 330,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2025.

The law does have more aggressive goals in the out years, but any GHG emissions reductions would occur past 2030, which is well past the vanishing 10 year window that climate scientists have warned that we have to dramatically reduce emissions to avoid catastrophic impacts.

That may sound aggressive in light of the fact that, according to DEP (@p.11), there were only 26,840 EV’s on the road in 2019. That’s about only 1% of approximately 3 million NJ registered passenger cars (2.8 million, in 2017) – and that doesn’t count trucks and buses and other transportation sector GHG emissions (more on that below).

But Gov. Murphy’s 2025 EV goal is already current law, based on the “California Car” law passed by the legislature in 2004, 16 years ago. NJ has failed to make real progress towards meeting that 16 year old goal. As NJ Spotlight noted:

By 2025, New Jersey is supposed to have more than 300,000 ZEVs on the road, a mandate it has to meet under the California low-emission car program it has agreed to comply with, along with 12 other states and jurisdictions.

So, Gov. Murphy’s “transformative” EV program is based on an EV on road goal that is little more than the 16 year old legal status quo, at least over a realistic 5 year planning horizon.

2. DEP GHG Emissions Inventory Underestimates Total Emissions –

The BEST CASE EV program would have a negligible impact on total greenhouse gas emissions

Now let’s look at the EV program in light of the most recent data on total annual NJ GHG emissions, according to NJ DEP’s most recently Greenhouse Gas Inventory:

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 10.27.27 AM

Transportation sector emissions are discussed starting on page 8 – there is no mention of aviation, rail, or shipping impacts or lifecycle impacts.

According to DEP, the transportation sector accounts for 40.6 million tons, or 38.7% of total 2018 GHG emissions.

That DEP total does NOT include GHG emission from aviation, rail, or shipping, which are huge in NJ, given Newark airport and the Ports.

NJ is an urban, coastal, metropolitan corridor state, home of some of the nation’s largest airports, ports, and commercial and recreational shipping. For DEP to ignore GHG emission from those activities would be like Kansas or Iowa ignoring corn, soybean and wheat production impacts in their agricultural inventory. Absurd.

The GHG emissions DEP left out of the inventory are larger than any emissions reductions that might result from the EV program from now until after 2030.

In contrast, the NJ Transportation Planning Authority conducted a GHG inventory that did consider aviation, rail and shipping. It also included “upstream” – or lifecycle emissions:

Energy‐Cycle Emissions

Energy‐cycle emissions associated with fuel extraction, refining, transport and delivery (upstream emissions) were included for all fuels. Energy‐cycle emissions, including upstream emissions for biogenic and fossil fuels, as appropriate, were developed using the GREET model.

upstream production of a product or process, called energy‐cycle emissions, which include emissions associated with material extraction, processing, and transport. For example, the extraction, distribution, and refining of gasoline is often not considered in the direct emissions accounting, but is included in a consumption/energy cycle accounting method. Measuring greenhouse gas emissions by using both methods provide a more nuanced and complete picture of where greenhouse gas are being emitted and provides additional guidance on what GHG mitigation measures may be pursued.

According to NJTPA, “upstream” emissions are significant:

The GREET model does not have an energy‐cycle emissions estimate specifically for aviation fuels, so diesel fuel was used as a surrogate. This produced a 24.8 percent increase in emissions when energy‐cycle emissions are considered.

According to NJTPA, aviation accounts for about 2 million tons GHG emission (in 2020). Marine vessels account for an additional 650,000 tons, and rail more than 1.2 million tons. That’s a total of 3.85 million tons DEP does not consider (and that’s only for the north jersey NJTPA region, not statewide ).

So, NJ DEP’s GHG inventory is WAY TOO LOW because it does not include energy life-cycle emissions (up to an additional 25%) or emissions from aviation, rail, and marine vessels.

But before going deeper into the weeds of GHG inventory and projection methods, let’s get back to the EV program. But we will note, regarding emissions inventories, of course, that as the real GHG emissions increase, that diminishes the impact of EV’s on total GHG emissions. If DEP’s estimates are WAY TOO LOW, that means the EV programs impact is even SMALLER than we estimate here.

We will assume that the EV law applies primarily to passenger and light duty vehicles, similar to the California Car law, which according to DEP:

The [California Car] rules are applicable to 2009 and newer light duty motor vehicles less than or equal to 8,500 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that are sold or registered in New Jersey. It does not include medium-duty vehicles, off-highway vehicles, all- terrain vehicles and motorcycles.

According to DEP data, passenger vehicles account for 40% of the vehicle emissions, or 16.2 million tons, or 15.4% of total emissions. Passenger trucks and light commercial trucks are 57%, but only a portion of those are subject to the EV law and I can’t get the data due to DEP’s formatting.

DEP breaks this transportation sector GHG emission data further.

So, BEST CASE, assuming the 2025 goal of 330,000 EV’s on the road is met, that EV’s represent about 10% of the total passenger vehicle fleet, every EV replaces an internal combustion engine car, and all other GHG emission factors remain constant, the 2025 EV goal would reduce GHG emissions by less than 1.6 million tons, or less than 1.5%.(and that is FAR less that the carbon that is sequestered in NJ forests – more on that issue in a future post).

Is a 1.5% GHG emissions reduction “transformative” change, as Gov. Murphy claims?

For many reasons, we have little confidence that the BEST CASE will actually be achieved.

We know that all other assumed GHG emission factors will not remain constant.

As I’ve noted, there has been little progress over the last 16 years in meeting the California Car EV goals. Worse, the new EV law’s goals are aspirational: there are no enforcement sticks to provide incentives for compliance or deterrence for violations.

The law does not mandate that a new EV force the retirement of an internal combustion engine or that total internal combustion vehicles or total vehicle miles travelled or total GHG emissions be reduced.

In addition to those statutory flaws, there are technical issues to consider.

The number of vehicles (all vehicles, including trucks and buses) and the vehicle miles traveled by passenger vehicles all will increase.

Nationally, vehicle miles travelled have increased  by 28.5% from 1994 – 2018.

These increases are very likely to significantly reduce, if not wipe out, the small emissions reductions associated with the EV program. Just look at the NJ VMT and emissions data:

Note the BLUE LINE - steep increase in VMT (Source: NJ DEP GHG Emissions Inventory, 2018)

Note the BLUE LINE – steep increase in VMT (Source: NJ DEP GHG Emissions Inventory, 2018)

As shown in Figure 2, these [GHG emission] reductions occurred against the background of continuing growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) since the economic recovery in 2010 (VMT declined during the 2008-2009 economic recession).
The rate of increase in VMT is outstripping the increases in fuel efficiency. That locks in increases in GHG emissions.
And thus far, we’ve limited this to the GHG emissions from the transportation sector.

Economic growth will drive increases in GHG emissions from other sectors, again reducing the impact of the EV program on total emissions, but that analysis is beyond our scope.

Finally, the EV legislation diverted $300 million, over 10 years, from the RGGI funds and Clean Energy Fund (including energy efficiency and low income energy assistance) to pay for the EV rebates. These programs that were defunded provided some greenhouse gas emission reductions. These emissions reductions must be subtracted from any reductions associated with the EV program.

It is possible that the RGGI & Clean Energy Fund programs that were defunded provided MORE current GHG emissions reductions than those future reductions that might result from the EV rebate program. Thus, the EV rebate program could end up increasing emissions, even under the BEST CASE scenario!

3. Conclusions

So, with all that in mind, let me finish with a few conclusions:

1. the 2004 Clean Car (California car) program is incredibly complex, including a myriad of credits. I could not make sense of it on basic facts, like who is responsible for meeting the goals, what happens if they are not met, and how many cars must be EV’s.

The NJ EV law seems to replicate these flaws.

2. The 2004 NJ Clean Car law set a goal of 330,000 EV’s on the road by 2025, according to press reports (I could not find that number in government documents).

3. The NJ 2020 EV legislation, claimed to be “transformative change”, set the SAME 330,000 by 2025 goal!

4. For context, there are about 2.8 million registered cars in NJ (2016 data, doesn’t include trucks, buses, et al)

5. Vehicle miles travelled have increased  by 28.5% from 1994 – 2018.

6. The EV legislation provides $300 million over 10 years (not NEW money, but a deeply regressive diversion of existing RGGI climate money and BPU Societal Benefit Charge low income energy assistance money) to give car purchasers a $5,000 rebate. At $5K a pop, that’s only 60,000 EV’s – just a fraction of the 330,000 goal.

Based on these facts, I conclude that, even if the EV goal are met – which is highly unlikely – that GHG emissions from the transportation sector will INCREASE, despite any reductions in emissions growth associated with EV’s.

On top of that, there is no data – and no attempt to evaluate – the alleged GHG emissions reductions associated with EV’s with the emissions reductions from the RGGI and SBC energy programs from with the $300 million was diverted.

It is possible that diversion of the SBC money to the EV program will actually INCREASE GHG emissions, because other uses of SBC money may be more cost effective in terms of reductions of GHG per dollar invested.

And I was pleasantly surprised by the role of urban forests in sequestering carbon:

Source - NJTPA - see links above

Source – NJTPA – see links above

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The Green Cannibals Roaming In Trenton Do Enormous Damage

January 25th, 2020 No comments

Steal Money From Existing Environmental Programs To Fund Pet Projects

Give Green Cover To Corporations, The Wealthy & Politicians Who Serve Them

Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food…. Human cannibalism is well documented, both in ancient and in recent times ~~~ Wiki

Let me first briefly set the context for the point I want to make about another egregious abuse by what I will call The Green Cannibals of Trenton (TM) – AKA The Green Mafia.

For 40 years, since the Reagan administration, corporations and the wealthy have benefited from a set of policies known as Neoliberalism; e.g. tax cuts for corporations and the rich (AKA “trickle down”), corporate subsidies, deregulation, privatization, “liberalization” of trade policies (AKA “globalization”), financialization, deindustrialization, disinvestment, attacks on unions, and austerity for the public sector (AKA as “make government small enough to drown in the bathtub”).

These policies have resulted in a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to what is commonly known as the “1 percent”. These policies have created the largest wealth and income inequality and concentration and consolidation of corporate economic and political power since the Gilded Age.

At the same time, social safety net programs have been slashed and government – particularly its regulatory functions – has been neutered.

Those massively destructive Reagan initiated national Neoliberal policies have been emulated in NJ, by both Republicans and Democrats.

We can observe those policies in action with respect to environmental programs and the DEP, perhaps most clearly under the “Open For Business” Whitman and Christie administrations, who both waged war on environmental programs, slashed DEP’s budget and staffing levels, rolled back and/or abandoned regulatory enforcement, and privatized and deregulated.

At the same time, climate science has made it imperative that we undertake a massive transformation of our energy and economic systems, make huge new investments in public infrastructure, and greatly reduce economic and political inequality and injustice.

So, with this policy context in mind, how has the mainstream NJ environmental community and their corporatized Foundation Funders responded to these multiple crises?

  • They have completely ignored corporate power and economic inequality – and taken steps to actually increase it.
  • They have compromised and sold out on climate and energy programs, by supporting piecemeal, small bore, deeply flawed, and ineffective market based programs that won’t make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • They supported the $300 million/year corporate PSEG nuclear bailout.
  • They have gone along with even more crippling budget and staff cuts at DEP.
  • They supported a sham cost-benefit test that blocks expansion of renewable energy.
  • They have lied to and misled the public.
  • They have promoted privatization and/or deregulation, or failed to challenge it.

I have written in depth about and can provide numerous specific examples of all of the above, but that would make this already lengthy post far too long (hit the links above – I’ll try to link more).

So, with all that in mind, let me explain the justification for the Green Cannibals meme.

Readers will recall the following recent actions by the Green Cannibals:

  • The Keep It Green (KIG) Coalition stole hundreds of millions of dollars previously Constitutionally dedicated to DEP clean water, State Parks maintenance, and toxic site cleanup programs. They diverted these funds to the Open Space program. On top of this theft, they lied to the public about all this and engaged in self dealing by allocating funds to support their own organizations.
  • The recent electric car legislation stole $300 million from funds previously earmarked for greenhouse gas emission reduction programs (RGGI) and energy efficiency and low income energy assistance programs (Clean Energy Fund – SBC).

Now, after all these thefts, they are again trying to steal money from environmental programs instead of fighting for new revenues and equitable sharing of the burdens of funding these programs.

Specifically, I just learned that for their first hearing of the new legislative session, on Monday the Senate Environment Committee will hear legislation S864 – a bill that:

Prohibits provision or sale of single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, and polystyrene foam food service products; limits provision of single-use plastic straws; appropriates moneys from Clean Communities Program Fund for public education.

Did you get that? Here’s the legislative text (see page 11)

in each of the first three years after the effective date of P.L. , c. (C. )(pending before the Legislature as this bill), $500,000 of the estimated annual balance of the Clean Communities Program Fund shall be appropriated to the department and made available on July 1 of each year to the organization under contract with the department pursuant to section 6 of P.L.2002, c.128 (C.13:1E-218) for the Statewide public information and education program developed pursuant to subsection b. of section of section 8 of P.L. , c. (C. )(pending before the Legislature as this bill).

The Green Cannibals are proposing another act of cannibalism on a very popular and effective DEP program known as “Clean Communities“, a program designed to:

To provide financial assistance for the implementation of litter abatement programs in eligible municipalities and counties within the State. …

All 21 New Jersey counties and 558 of the 565 New Jersey municipalities receive funding

Note that the Green Cannibals – just like in the Open Space and Electric vehicle thefts – are not supporting an increase in the tax that funds the current clean communities program in order to fund their pet program.

If the plastic program is important, then it should be funded with new revenues, not existing revenues. Like how about a tax on the polluters who make all the plastic crap?

The cannibals – or are they parasites? – must be stopped before they do more damage.

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NJ Gov. Murphy Pocket Vetoes Energy Privatization Bill We Called “An Egregious Example Of A Rigged System”

January 22nd, 2020 No comments

Privatization And Corporate Subsidies Again Discredited

Stealth Attempt To Ram Major Controversial Bill Through Lame Duck Fails

NJ Gov. Murphy just pocket vetoed a very bad bill we – after listing a litany of abuses – called “an egregious example of a rigged system“.

It would have been a mind boggling example of hypocrisy for the Gov. to have signed that bill into law, given his Executive Orders (i.e EO #3 and EO #52), the findings of Gov.’s own Taskforce, and all the criticism he’s correctly given to EDA “corporate financial incentive programs”, which he himself called part of a “rigged system”.

It is a huge embarrassment for the bill’s sponsors, especially Senator Sarlo and Senate President Sweeney, who tried to ram this bill down our throats in the lame duck session.

Thankfully, sometimes good public policy and the public interest prevail over the corrupt private greed in Trenton.

Remarkably, although I did not confirm this by listening to the tapes of the legislative testimony, I was told that the bill faced virtually no opposition by environmental, energy and climate groups, not even the usual vocal opponents of privatization, like Food and Water Watch.

Heckofajob, all you foundation funded Democratic Party cheerleaders and cowards!

Even worse than the ENGO”s being AWOL, NJ Spotlight ran a very favorable puff piece, just as the bill quietly made its way through the lame duck session, including passage by both houses on the last day of the lame duck session.

Clearly, NJ Spotlight was cheerleading for corporate sponsors and not reporting in the public interest when they wrote this set up story on January 13, 2020, just 9 days ago:

I guess the private sector and NJ Spotlight were not poised in anticipation of the Gov.’s veto!

So, it was no surprise that today, NJ Spotlight buried Murphy’s pocket veto in their story and euphemistically described the bill as designed to “promote private investment in government energy projects” – note how the use of the word “government” energy projects dampens the privatization aspects.

NJ Spotlight plays the same dishonest game by again downplaying the privatization issue, when they report on another lame duck bill on recycling used paint that was pocket vetoed by the Gov. That bill effectively was an attempt to privatize what had previously been a public responsibility and program managed by County and local governments, but NJ Spotlight described it thusly:

Murphy’s vetoed bills included one (A-4382) that would have established a statewide program to recycle and reuse paint

Note how NJ Spotlight makes no mention of the fact that the bill – as they reported in another puff piece quoting Dennis Hart of the NJ Chemistry Council in support – was another privatization bill.

We originally flagged and criticized this ALEC energy privatization bill almost 7 years ago, see:

So, my question to NJ ENGO’s, the liberal NJ foundations who fund them, and NJ Spotlight is:

How they hell did you miss this bill?

I’m out here in the wilderness of the Sonoran desert and I flagged this.

Or were you aware of the bill and were too cowardly or incompetent to oppose it publicly?

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NJ Gov. Murphy’s Electric Vehicle Legislation Provides NO NEW MONEY AND WILL CAUSE NO RATE INCREASES – It Diverts Existing Climate and Low Income Energy Funds To Provide Rebates To Purchase New Tesla’s

January 17th, 2020 No comments

Nuclear Bailout Got New Money That Increased Electric Bills, But Not EV’s

NJ Spotlight Again Makes Huge Fact Error In Reporting

I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of God’s children smothering in an airtight cage of  poverty in the midst of an affluent society. ~~~  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  1967 – quoted here

I previously wrote about why I think the electric vehicle legislation that Gov. Murphy will sign today is flawed, see:

Aside from the lame duck and process issues, the law is deeply regressive and very likely – just like the current NJ “California Car” law and complex credit scheme will fail to meet it’s goals due to a lack of adequate funding, the absence of enforceable mandates, and no enforcement provisions and/or sanctions for failure to meet the aspirational goals for the number of EV’s on the road. 

(and the bill does nothing to reduce the proliferation of internal combustion engines, or the huge growth in vehicle miles traveled, or otherwise guarantee reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. It is likely that more economic growth and sprawling land development (and redevelopment) that Gov. Murphy is pushing and his DEP is permitting will stimulate more truck & car travel, leading to more cars & trucks on the road, traveling more miles, and emitting more GHG’s that will more than offset the avoided growth in GHG emissions (not emissions reductions) from the small fleet of EV’s, leading to a continuing increases in GHG from the transportation sector, even if the numerical EV goals of the law are met, which is unlikely. Similarly, there are no mandates that an EV displace an internal combustion engine. There are no mandates addressing land use and transportation, or for reducing trips and VMT, or enhancing and expanding public transportation (other than a slow conversion of the NJ Transit bus fleet.) For every EV sold, 3 or more internal combustion vehicle should be retired. EV charging stations should be mandated. But there are no plans for any of these necessary actions even on the table. The EV program under this bill won’t make a dent in GHG emissions from the transportation sector, which will continue to grow. Yet the law is being wildly praised by all the usual sycophants.).

We’re not gonna slow the climate catastrophe and transition to a zero carbon economy on aspirational goals, voluntary measures, market based solutions, corporate subsidies, “incentives”, and diversions of existing funding – which is what this EV bill epitomizes.

(and just like the recent Open Space scam – which created no new funds but instead diverted existing DEP clean water, State Parks, and toxic site cleanup money – the EV law diverts existing climate (RGGI) and low income energy assistance money (SBC)).

So for today, I just want to make one important point and correct another egregiously misleading story and major fact error about the EV law that was reported in today’s NJ Spotlight story.

As I have written, NJ Spotlight is obsessed with the so called high costs of and subsidies to renewable energy, and their alleged impact on ratepayers. Business sources are repeatedly quoted criticizing these alleged high costs. However, Spotlight rarely – if ever – publishes the benefits and subsidies to fossil, or the actual costs on individual ratepayers. That’s because, as I’ve noted, these costs are often paltry, while the climate catastrophe costs are so huge as to be incalculable (but the social costs of carbon have been quantified and estimated).

For example, the RGGI program costs a typical residential customer something like 50 cents per month  – while RGGI and solar cost about $1.05/month, according to the Christie Energy Master Plan.

Similarly, in a recent story about the Atlantic City Electric proposed EV program, after expressing major concerns about “a significant issue given the cost customers will have to absorb in shifting to a clean-energy economy”, Spotlight reported the actual cost:

Atlantic City Electric said the cost of the program, if approved by the BPU, will be paid by a delivery charge on customers bills — roughly 54 cents a month for the typical customer.

Do you think 54 cents per month is a “significant issue”?  (compared to other monthly expenses and the costs of climate catastrophe).

Repeating that misleading reporting about costs, today Spotlight falsely claims that the EV program will be funded by new revenues and ratepayers will see an increase in electric bills:

For ratepayers, the legislation will add another $300 million onto their monthly bills over the next decade to provide generous rebates of up to $5,000 to consumers who choose to purchase electric vehicles.

That is blatantly factually false and totally misleading.

In fact, the law provides no new money and appropriates no new money.

Instead it diverts existing money from existing revenues to fund the $300 million – 10 year rebate program, funds that are collected under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and via the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC).

The EV law includes provisions that anticipate that there could be future new revenues from 2 sources: legislative appropriations and a new special surcharge on electric bills established by BPU to fund the EV charging infrastructure.

But that money is NOT – repeat NOT – established by the law nor mandated by the law. There is no legislative appropriation, the entire $300 million EV rebate program is paid for via diversions of existing funds, and BPU “may” but is not required to increase rates in the future to pay for the charging infrastructure.

The Office of Legislative Services’ Fiscal Note on the bill confirms those claims:

  • The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) finds that the bill could increase State expenditures and revenues by indeterminate amounts. This conclusion is rooted in a lack of information concerning future decisions of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) concerning the electric vehicle incentive program and the in-home electric vehicle charging equipment incentive program, and whether deposits into the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Incentive Fund (fund) from the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC) to support those programs will result in higher SBC revenues and expenditures as opposed to reallocation of current revenues from existing programs.

Legislation establishing “indeterminate revenues” is not a serious policy and certainly is not the way to achieve billion dollar investments required to make the transition to a zero carbon economy.

So let’s break this down further.

NJ Spotlight’s claim that the program will be funded at a level of $300 million over a decade is correct.

But, Spotlight fails to call that expenditure an infrastructure investment – which is misleading – and worse, goes on to falsely claim that it is “another” new charge paid by ratepayers.

Let’s be clear: Section 14 of the law provides:

b. The board shall implement the rebate program until June 30th of the 10th year after the rebate program begins, or after $300,000,000 in rebate disbursements have been paid from the fund, whichever occurs first.

But the source of funds for that $300 millions is NOT new revenue. As the OLS Fiscal Note states:

The bill establishes a special, nonlapsing fund in the BPU to be known as the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Incentive Fund. The bill requires the BPU to deposit into the fund, each year, $30 million of moneys received from the societal benefits charge established pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1999, c.23 (C.48:3-60), moneys made available to the BPU pursuant to the implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and P.L.2007, c.340 (C.26:2C-45 et seq.), and moneys available from other funding sources, as determined by the BPU, to make disbursements under the light duty plug-in electric vehicle incentive program.

According to OLS, BPU is required to allocate $30 million/year from RGGI and SBC funds. That $30 million/year diversion accounts for 100% of the $300 million funding for the rebate program. The rebate program is fully paid for. From existing RGGI and SBC money. No new money. No rate increases to pay for it. NJ Spotlight is full of crap.

In contrast to this mandate to divert exiting money, But BPU is merely authorized – but not required – to create additional new funding sources to pay for other EV incentives, like home and roadway and other charging stations.

The text of the law makes that very clear. Section 16 of the law established 3 sources of revenues:

16. (New section) a. There is established in the Department of the Treasury a special, nonlapsing fund to be known as the “Plug-in Electric Vehicle Rebate Fund,” also referred to as “the fund.” The fund shall be administered by the State Treasurer and shall be credited with:

(1) moneys deposited by the Board of Public Utilities pursuant to this subsection for the purposes of the fund;

(2) moneys as are appropriated by the Legislature; and

(2) (sic) any return on investment of moneys deposited in the fund.

The board may deposit into the fund moneys received from the societal benefits charge established pursuant to section 11 of P.L.1999, c.23 (C.48:3-60), moneys made available to the board pursuant to the implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and P.L.2007, c.340 (C.26:2C-45 et seq.), and moneys available from other funding sources as determined by the board.

The RGGI and SBC money is earmarked for, among other things, low income energy assistance and other programs that are supposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So, Gov. Murphy is robbing Peter to pay Paul – taking money out of one pot of funds designed to reduce greenhouse gs emissions and diverting it to another pot of money designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But even worse, robbing Peter in Newark is taking money from low income energy assistance programs, while paying Paul in Tewksbury to buy a new Tesla.

In contrast, the nuclear bailout benefitted from new ratepayer money that increased electric bills, and merely to guarantee PSE&G’s corporate profits

Diversion of existing funds is NOT how were are going to finance the multi-billion dollar investments required to transform to a zero carbon economy.

And we can’t finance the program on the backs of poor and working class people.

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