Murphy Signs Law that Targets Global Warming, Concedes It’s Not Enough

Tom Johnson | July 24, 2019 | Energy & Environment
One activist calls measure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey ‘really significant’ while another says it falls far short of efforts by other states

Credit: United Nations Photos
greenhouse gas emissions
Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday signed a bill that aims to ensure the state achieves aggressive targets to curb global-warming emissions while acknowledging the measure does not go far enough in addressing some of the most potent greenhouse-gas emissions.

The legislation (S-3207) focuses on an earlier law that requires the state to reduce carbon pollution in New Jersey by 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050, a target some climate activists view as unlikely to be met.

Others see the new law as bolstering the state’s Global Warming Response Act, a measure passed in 2007, seeking to sharply curb carbon-forming pollution.

“I think it is really significant,’’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director for ReThink Energy NJ, which has generally backed the Murphy administration’s environmental policies. “Now, it is crystal clear that New Jersey has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including short-lived pollutants.’’

The bill would require the state to do a better job of monitoring and reporting on greenhouse-gas emissions, and within a year to issue a report on what additional steps are necessary to curb carbon pollution.

What about methane?

In a statement accompanying his signing, Murphy conceded the state needs to do more to reduce short-lived carbon pollutants. They include methane, black carbon or soot, largely coming from diesel vehicles and a particularly dangerous pollutant in dense, urban areas.

“Short-lived climate pollutants have a significant warming influence on the climate and must be evaluated as part of the state’s comprehensive strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change,’’ Murphy said in the statement.

The governor directed the Department of Environmental Protection to address the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants. Murphy did not specifically address methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is leaked into the air from natural-gas pipelines, landfills and other sources.

“His signing statement is just spin without any substance,’’ argued Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and a frequent critic of the administration. “It’s the same DEP that took it out of the bill in the first place,’’ he said, referring to amendments made in committee.

Gilbert argued the legislation makes clear the administration plans to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions before the end of Murphy’s term. Clean-energy advocates have long argued the DEP has the legal authority to do so but that the department has been reluctant to do so.

“We are going to see the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions before the completion of the Governor’s first term,’’ Gilbert said. “There couldn’t be any more urgency for us to get it done.’’

In addition, the bill requires the DEP to establish interim targets before 2050 as a way of ensuring regulators are on a trajectory to reach the significant reductions in carbon pollution by mid-century.

Tittel argued the bill falls far short of steps taken by other states, like New York, which aims to have 100 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy by 2040 and have net zero carbon emissions by 2050.