Energy master plan hearing focuses on reducing emissions

If the state intends to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2050, environmentalists see a glaring hurdle.

“The most important thing you can do in terms of steps is this moratorium on any new approvals of fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Ted Glick, advocate for the group Roseland Against the Compressor Station.

“We need a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects,” said Food and Water Watch organizer Matt Smith.

“I’m joining others who have asked you for a full moratorium on all fossil fuel infrastructure and projects,” added Harriet Shugarman, executive director of ClimateMama.

The latest meeting of the New Jersey Energy Master Plan Committee in Newark was a catchall, asking for general public input to help draft a new plan by June 2019.

“We really want to put together a plan that is comprehensive and that is thoughtful and thorough,” said Grace Strom Power, who chairs the committee.

Ideas run the gamut, but many agreed the focus should be on reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

“When you approve new gas pipelines, when you approve new compressor stations, when you approve the expansion of compressor stations, when you approve all of this type of infrastructure you’re making things worse, not better,” Glick said.

Attendees asked the committee — made up of members from the Board of Public Utilities — to rethink state projects with environmental impact as a whole system instead of individually. For instance, seven pipeline projects, three new natural gas plants or Gov. Phil Murphy’s new law that gives $300 million a year over the next 10 to boost nuclear power and generate approximately 40 percent of the state’s electricity.

“It is less important when we get to 100 percent and more about what we do in the next 10 years. If we don’t start to begin a dramatic draw down of greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years, we will have missed the window of opportunity,” Smith said.

“In our master plan in New Jersey, we have to deal with the reality that the federal government is rolling back safety standards,” Paula Rogovin, co-founder of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, said.

The EPA under President Donald Trump has moved to reverse dozens of environmental standards, including emission standards for cars and coal-fueled power plants and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, to name a few.

“As we move toward zero-emission vehicles, that should include our public modes of transportation, our ride shares, our public fleets, as well as our personal vehicles. That’s critical to addressing climate change and global warming,” said Kim Gatti, Clean Water Action social justice organizer.

Gatti says that’s particularly important for areas like Newark where roughly 3,500 of the 14,000 trucks heading to the ports travel through local streets. That leaves residents with the aftermath — pollution, asthma and dirty air.

“We are disproportionally polluted upon because of the ZIP code we reside in and the color of our skin,” she said.

One additional meeting will be held Oct. 10. Anyone with comments can continue submitting until 5 p.m. on Oct. 12. After that, it’s in the hands of the committee.

Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim, III.

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