Another Regional Initiative, This One for Zero-Emission Vehicles

An eight-state effort wants to help reduce pollution from the transportation sector, NJ’s biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions

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The Christie administration shunned regional collaborations with neighboring states to fight climate change, but that probably will not be the case next year.

Not only are lawmakers and others pushing to re-enter a regional initiative to curb carbon pollution from power plants, but also they are urging New Jersey to join an eight-state effort in the Northeast to bolster sale of zero-emission vehicles.

With the transportation sector the largest single source of greenhouse-gas emissions, clean-energy advocates say it is imperative that states step up efforts to promote much more widespread use of electric and other zero-emission vehicles.

Targeting 3M zero-emission vehicles

The four-year-old effort, known as the Multi-State ZEV Task Force, is working to achieve a collective target of having at least 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in the eight-state region by 2025.

Most of those states, like New Jersey, have established aggressive targets to reduce emissions contributing to global warming in the coming decades. In New Jersey, a state law requires an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas levels from 1990 levels by 2050.

“We are not going to achieve those goals unless we get pretty significant reductions from the transportation sector,’’ said Kathy Kinsey, a senior policy advisor at NESCAUM (Northeast States Coordinated Air Use Management), which provides technical assistance to the multistate task force.

On the California plan

The eight states not only have ambitious emission goals to reduce carbon pollution, but also are bound by California’s low-emission vehicle program, which requires 15 percent of new vehicles sold in those states to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. New Jersey and Maine also are bound by the requirements of the California program, although they chose not to be part of the ZEV task force.

“It’s very peculiar that it didn’t happen. It caused so much confusion,’’ said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC, a coalition promoting electric vehicles in New Jersey. “It’s a big leap. Everyone has to rev up to meet the ZEV requirements.’’

In New Jersey, that requirement translates into having at least 300,000 ZEVs by 2025, a tall order given that there are just 10,000 such cars on the road in the state, according to the coalition.

The rationale

The rationale behind the multistate effort to promote ZEVs is based on the states that constitute about 28 percent of the U.S. automobile market. They can work together to create consumer demand that will lower ZEV costs through economies of scale and expand the range of product lines available throughout the country.

In an action plan developed by the task force, it encourages states to take a number of steps, including adopting incentives to boost ownership of ZEVs, increase their number in public fleets, and promote infrastructure investment by public and private entities.

“We need much more widespread adoption by mainstream consumers,’’ noted Kinsey. “There is a lot of opportunity for states to collaborate on a regional basis.’’

Last month, about two dozen New Jersey business leaders, former state officials, and former Govs. Tom Kean and Jim Florio signed a letter urging the next administration to join the multistate compact as one of the actions that could be taken to accelerate efforts to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions.

It is a concept that some environmentalists are pushing too, saying the state should make more regional efforts to deal with climate change, especially in the wake of the Trump administration pulling back on such efforts.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said such an effort could resolve one of the big issues with electric vehicles — range anxiety, which occurs when a motorist is uncertain about to find a charging station for their car.

“Imagine if you are in New Jersey and you buy a plug-in vehicle, you can drive to Boston or Washington, D.C., and not worry about range anxiety,’’ he said.

Currently, New Jersey has only several hundred charging stations for electric cars.