NJ Doesn’t Join Eight-State Initiative to Promote Zero-Emission Vehicles

Decision rankles clean-energy activists; DEP says effort duplicates existing program

Electric car charging station is located at Mrs. Riley's Publik House and Trattoria in High Bridge, Hunterdon County.
Eight states have agreed to put a lot more energy into promoting the sales of electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles — but not New Jersey.

In an agreement announced last week by governors of those eight states, all but two of them in the Northeast, agreed to take steps to help usher in cleaner-running vehicles with the goal of putting 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads within a dozen years.

Zero-emission vehicles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and public health, and promote economic growth by jump-starting a fledgling “green” industry, according to its proponents.

So what’s not to like? All of those goals are shared by New Jersey — in its energy master plan, in a law requiring the state to reduce emissions contributing to global warming, and in another law designed to promote cleaner running vehicles.

Yet the Christie administration is not participating in the initiative.

Asked why, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the new effort duplicates an 11-state compact, in which New Jersey is a participant, addressing transportation issues dealing with climate change.

“We’re satisfied with that effort,’’ said the DEP’s Larry Ragonese, adding that New Jersey supports the eight-state initiative’s goal.

“We are committed to advancing environmental technologies,” he said. “We are committed to these goals.’’

Ragonese acknowledged that the state’s rollout of cleaner vehicles has not happened as quickly at it hoped.

One reason is that efforts to encourage installation of plug-in car stations at malls, highway rest stops and elsewhere have never received final legislative approval, partly due to lack of support by the majority of Republican lawmakers.

New Jersey’s failure to participate in the eight-state program rankled clean-energy advocates and others who have been critical of New Jersey’s efforts to encourage motorists to switch to cleaner-running vehicles – which can only be achieved by on a large scale by building the infrastructure, including plug-in electric-vehicle stations across the state.

“I’m disappointed,’’ said Chuck Feinberg, president of the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, who still hopes the coalition can convince the state to join the eight-state effort. “It could have been a step for New Jersey to show some leadership—both from an environmental and economic reasons.’’

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, agreed.

“How does the state meet the goals set in the clean-car law passed a couple of years ago?’’ Tittel asked.

Under the law, New Jersey has to meet the same standards as California and other states for promoting the use of cleaner-running cars and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

New Jersey does have more than 100 plug-in electric charging stations, Ragonese noted. According to the federal Department of Energy, the state has 120 charging stations, a number of that includes both public locations and private facilities – for example, charging stations at workplaces that are available only to employees).

The state also has 30 compressed natural-gas refueling stations, according to Ragonese. There are no hydrogen- fueling stations, another goal of the eight-state coalition.

according to the DOE database, there are currently 120 EV charging stations in NJ. This includes public locations and private (for example, stations at a workplace which is only available to employees).

Under the agreement, the states agreed to revamp building codes to make it easier to construct new electric-vehicle charging stations; to purchase more zero-emission vehicles for public fleets; to look at establishing incentives to promote the vehicles, and to consider setting favorable electricity rates for cars using at-home charging stations.

There are already more than 6,700 charging stations open to the public in the signatory states — California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

While expressing frustration with New Jersey’s decision to not join the new initiative, Feinberg said the state could still benefit from the program.

His optimism stems from the fact that the eight signatory states represent 23 percent of the U.S. car market, a large enough segment to help lower the costs of zero-emission vehicles through economies of scale and to expand the range of product lines available to consumers.

New Jersey, like other states which agreed to promote cleaner-running vehicles under a previous initiative, requires automakers to sell a certain amount of low- emission vehicles each year, a mandate that car manufacturers are scrambling to achieve.

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