In the face of an unprecedented array of environmental crises, New Jersey has become a national example in protecting our environment and catalyzing good local jobs in the clean energy economy. We just concluded the most environmentally productive legislative session in our state’s history. Our lawmakers, working with Gov. Phil Murphy, set bold goals to combat climate change, took action to reduce pollution and defended open space.
Such progress could not have been reached without the determined voices of our community of over 30,000 of New Jersey League of Conservation Voter members across the state. These engaged citizens and their neighbors came out time and again in support of policies that protected clean drinking water, breathable air and cherished open spaces.
Reversing course after eight years of inaction from former Gov. Chris Christie, Governor Murphy and the Legislature passed a series of landmark bills that make our state a leader in the fight against climate change, requiring the state to derive half its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2030 and adding teeth to state requirements to decarbonize our economy.
At the same time, the Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act addresses the crisis causing hazardous algae blooms that disrupt New Jersey lakes and derail entire regional economies. The measure also takes steps to limit the levels of bacteria that regularly close lakes during the summer tourism months.
Trenton lawmakers also acted unanimously to defend open space, protect farm land, support historic sites and fund urban parks by approving a funding formula that ends annual appropriations fights.
And in the waning days of last session’s lame duck, the Legislature sent a landmark bill to the governor’s desk that will make our transportation sector cleaner by promoting electric vehicles and transitioning state vehicles and NJ Transit buses away from diesel.
Yet now is not the time to rest on our laurels. As the Legislature begins a new two-year term this month, we have an opportunity to build on these accomplishments in several key areas:
- Cement our clean energy future
Building on our historic achievements last session to decarbonize our economy, we must codify into law the governor’s commitment to achieve all our energy from clean sources by 2050.
- End Plastic Bag Pollution
Plastic bags, straws and polystyrene containers present a hazard to New Jersey’s natural resources, clog our landfills, and pollute our streets, forests, rivers and oceans. A bill to address this issue stalled during the lame duck. It’s now time to get the job done to ban single-use plastics and paper bags.
- Clean Water
New Jersey must secure our precious water resources from contaminants. Man-made chemical contaminants including PFOA and PFOS are persistent in the environment and human body. They don’t break down, and as a result accumulate over time. Exposure to PFAS can increase the risk for low infant birth weights, weaken the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. PFOS exposure can cause thyroid hormone disruption.
At the same time, the problem of lead in our aging water lines and older housing stock poses a substantial threat to children – particularly in urban areas.
Trenton lawmakers must act to protect us from these contaminants. It is the least powerful, particularly young children and seniors, who are most at risk.
In addition, pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which are connected to massive bee die-offs around the world, used on crops and home gardens commonly appear in the food we eat, potentially harming human health. These systemic insecticides also cause declines in bee populations needed for agricultural production. This harms other vital specials to healthy natural ecosystems.
- Environmental Justice
Everyone has the right to breathe clean air. Low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by climate change. They are more likely to live in areas polluted by industrial factories such as incinerators and gas-fired powerplants.
Environmental justice communities must have a say in what happens to the environment in which they live. Local residents should be involved in planning the future of their towns and cities – especially when facing the prospect of a hazardous facility.
As we look ahead, our conservation agenda for the next legislative session is bold. But the accomplishments of the last legislative session demonstrate that New Jersey’s leaders are capable of taking the necessary steps to protect our state.
With these actions, New Jersey will continue to serve as a model for the nation and the world on addressing the climate crisis.