Change the Political Climate

As Tuesday’s election results show, the environment lost big. By electing a president who denies the indisputable evidence of climate change and has said the Environmental Protection Agency should not exist, we as a nation forfeited the opportunity to lead the urgent quest for clean water, clear air, and sustainable energy for the next four years.

While this is extremely disconcerting to anyone who believes that climate change is the single most critical issue of our time, ground we’ll cede in a Trump administration can be offset if we implement policies that protect our planet here at home in the Garden State.

With an anti-environment president in the White House, the stakes are higher than ever for the 2017 New Jersey governor’s race. The candidate who wins next November’s open-seat election has the opportunity to be a national leader on climate change, clean water and air, and land preservation. The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is committed to ensuring New Jersey once again leads on environmental protection.

As the leading voice for sound environmental policies in Trenton, the New Jersey LCV Education Fund sees how the outcome of the governor’s race will impact the environment. That’s why we are launching an ambitious campaign to ensure environmental issues important to New Jersey families are front and center. We’ve already committed nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to our Green in ’17 campaign, with huge plans to ensure conservation helps define the 2017 gubernatorial race.

For the past seven years, the Garden State has had a governor who rewarded big polluters, rolled back environmental regulations, and misspent clean-energy funds. Christie has gutted environmental enforcement and plans to divert pollution damage settlements from the intended communities. He’s been a terrible governor for the environment. Because he has President-elect Trump’s ear in his role on the transition team, we face the very real possibility that he’ll bring his anti-environment policies to the executive branch in Washington.

More than once during Christie’s reign, New Jersey’s families were forced to turn to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reverse the governor’s damage. Now the tables are about to turn. With a president-elect who has described climate change as a hoax, we need strong environmental leadership in the state so we can depend on bold actions when President Donald Trump won’t make sure our drinking water is safe from lead, our coastline is fortified against devastating floods, and our air is not choked with cancer-causing and asthma-aggravating chemicals.

In the three debates leading up to the presidential election, the environment was largely overlooked. Climate change was brought up only once, when undecided voter Ken Bone asked the candidates to discuss their respective energy policies in terms of their environmental friendliness. The consequences of ignoring conservation issues in a presidential election will be felt for generations.

Thankfully, gubernatorial candidates won’t be able to turn a blind eye to the serious environmental challenges we face in New Jersey because of New Jersey LCV Education Fund’s efforts. Our comprehensive campaign will inform New Jersey’s gubernatorial candidates about the environmental issues the electorate is most concerned about, develop comprehensive solutions to our state’s most pressing environmental challenges, and educate and engage millions of conservation voters. We are confident our efforts will pay off and the real winner of next November’s election will be the environment.

Ed Potosnak is executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, whose mission includes protecting New Jersey’s precious natural resources.