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Who Shot Down Gov. Murphy’s Green Bank Trial Balloon?

Senate Environment Committee Quietly Tables Bill To Create Green Bank

An unusual and embarrassing setback for Gov. Murphy

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The Senate Environment Committee met today – the Agenda for the hearing included S3603, a bill to create a Green Bank and implement Gov. Murphy’s proposal.

I wrote about the flaws in that bill yesterday and contacted the sponsor and Chairman Smith to request that the bill be held, see:

Surprisingly, the Senate Environment Committee held the bill today.

Chairman Smith offered this cover story – very casually minimizing an embarrassing set back for Gov. Murphy’s Green Bank:

A couple of changes to the agenda …. On today’s agenda, we have Senator Singleton’s bill, S3603. Once we posted it, he started getting calls about what’s the right group to be administering the money he wants to set aside for sustainability, green issues in the State. So he asked that we take it down so he could do a little additional research. And we’re always happy to do that. We like to do it right the first time.

I have no doubt that Senator Singleton and Chairman Smith got calls about the bill.

But I seriously doubt that those calls were from “sustainability” groups and that the issue of concern was “what’s the right group to be administering the money”.

Chairman Smith did not mention when the bill will be back on the agenda.

Smith failed even discuss the bill or pledge his support for the idea of a Green Bank.

Chairman Smith did not mention that the bill is designed to implement Gov. Murphy’s Green Bank initiative.

On February 28, 2023, Gov. Murphy announced the Green Bank in his budget plan:

The Governor is also proposing over $50 million in new resources to grow the green economy, including $12 million more for the Clean Energy Program that previously went to NJ TRANSIT and a $40 million Green Fund that can leverage both private capital and federal funds.

Last week, the Green Bank was praised by Gov. Murphy’s “green” cheerleaders: (NJ Spotlight)

The Murphy administration aims to leverage federal dollars, state money and private capital to create a so-called Green Fund that could potentially finance hundreds of millions of dollars in climate action projects over the next decade.

The initiative, announced with few details by Gov. Phil Murphy in his fiscal year 2024 budget plan last week, would start with $40 million and seek to capitalize on the billions of dollars expected to be made available to states, communities and nonprofits as result of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The law allocates $370 billion nationwide to a wide range of programs to address climate change.

Right out of the box, we blasted the Green Bank as a cynical ploy and criticized the Gov. cheerleaders.

The fact that the Committee held the bill without discussion or testimony so soon after the Gov. announced the Green Bank initiative is an unusual and embarrassing political setback.

It suggests technical incompetence in working with Senator Singleton in drafting the bill and a lack of political commitment to the Green Bank initiative. This confirms exactly what I initially criticized: that the whole thing is more of a political ploy than a serious policy initiative.

The Governor, his staff, and the DEP have consistently proven to be more adept at green rhetoric than green policy.

Is the bill dead or just in limbo?

The obvious question becomes: Who killed Gov. Murphy’s Green Bank trial balloon and why did they do so?

I strongly doubt it was my email opposing the bill.

So, who done it?

[End Note: In addition to the 8 points of criticism I made on the bill, I failed to mention perhaps the biggest flaw.

The Green Bank allocation of what could be billions of federal and state tax dollars is not in any way linked to any clear policy or plan.

In comparison, the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust funds are legally linked to DEP prepared plans under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinkning Water Act and federal State Revolving Fund appropriations by Congress.

The lack of any goals, planning, policy, or regulation to guide the Green Bank investments and allocations is an open invitation to corruption, patronage and pay to play.

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