NJ to spend $100M on green energy, environmental justice

Program, focusing on electrification of transportation sector, is aimed at helping state achieve goal of 100% clean energy by 2050
Credit: (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
File photo: An all-electric bus

Gov. Phil Murphy vowed to spend $100 million on clean transportation projects, much of which would be targeted to reducing unhealthy air quality in urban areas with communities that are already overburdened with pollution problems.

The projects announced Tuesday include a range of initiatives aimed at electrifying the transportation sector. That would mean funding for projects to transition to electric buses and electrifying garbage and delivery trucks. It also includes money to switch from fossil fuel used by medium- and heavy-duty equipment in cargo handling operations at ports and funding to aid industrial areas in so-called environmental-justice communities.

The investment is the most significant financial commitment the Murphy administration has yet made to advancing two of its highest environmental priorities: combating climate change and reducing pollution in communities that typically have the unhealthiest air quality in New Jersey.

“This is the first major commitment to electrifying our transportation system, particularly in our urban areas,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The sector is the largest single source of greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as the soot or fine particulate pollution that is a significant problem in cities.

The state is funding the programs in part by rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, and through a nationwide settlement with Volkswagen over installing software in vehicles that downplayed emissions from its vehicles.

“Climate change is the single greatest long-term threat currently facing humanity, and our state and economy are uniquely vulnerable to its devastating effects,’’ Murphy said in a news release. “The investments we are announcing today signify our commitment to environmental justice and equity while building a stronger economy that works for all.’’

Electric buses, and charging stations, too

Murphy also signed an executive order establishing the Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy as part of his administration; the new office will oversee the creation of a New Jersey Council on the Green Economy, an initiative announced in the governor’s State of the State address earlier this year.

“The New Jersey Council on the Green Economy is a terrific idea that helps generate good local union jobs that cannot be outsourced,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “These jobs will provide a living wage to sustain our middle-class and help to create a prosperous future for New Jerseyans, especially those that have been left behind in our Black and Brown communities.”

Most of the funding allocated by the administration will go to electrifying segments of the transportation system that have yet to attract significant financial incentives. Newark won $1 million to purchase two electric garbage trucks, part of a $9 million initiative in grants to local governments to electrify trash and delivery trucks.

Another $13 million was set aside for low- and moderate-income communities to reduce air pollution by electrifying school buses and shuttle buses. In addition, $5 million in grants were targeted to four communities to bring electric vehicle ride-hailing and charging stations to those locations.

A separate pot of $5 million will go for fast-charging infrastructure at 27 locations around the state.

The biggest chunk of allocations will go to environmental-justice communities to reduce diesel and black carbon emissions by electrifying cargo-handling and other equipment used at the port and loading facilities.

Finally, another $15 million will go to NJ Transit to electrify some of its buses and another $15 million in so-called flex funding to deploy for the above listed programs where additional incentives are needed.

“Today’s announcement is a win for our lungs and it’s a true down payment in speeding up the transition to electrifying our diesel truck fleets across the state,’’ said Hayley Berliner, a clean-energy associate with Environment New Jersey.