Governor’s Proposed Budget Gains High Marks from Environmentalists

Mar 13, 2019

State environmental groups are lauding Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed 2020 state budget, saying fiscal responsibility is a key component to environmental protection.

“We’re pleased Gov. Murphy is building on his commitment to address climate change by establishing an Office of Climate Resilience within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and moving to restore clean energy funds,” Michele Byers, executive director of the N.J. Conservation Foundation, said last week following the governor’s March 5 budget delivery.

Byers noted the investments sustain environmental solutions that will better prepare the state for a changing climate, the growth of renewables and energy efficiency to reduce emissions and create jobs.

Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, a statewide political voice for the environment that seeks to elect environmentally responsible candidates at the local and state level, echoed much of Byers’ sentiments regarding Murphy’s proposed budget, noting the governor continues to make good on his commitment to make the Garden State the greenest state in the nation.

“By halving the amount diverted from the Clean Energy Fund, this budget goes a long way to restoring the Clean Energy program to its mission of lowering energy costs for ratepayers through energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy,” Potosnak said. “We understand that completely eliminating the clean energy funds diverted in just one year was challenging, and we see the short-term investment in NJ Transit to improve public transportation options for families as acceptable this year. We’ll be looking at funding for the DEP to ensure the state can hold polluters accountable and expand critical conservation programs.”

In a brief of his proposed budget, Murphy noted his proposal “begins restoring clean energy spending by dedicating $5 million to the Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) to drive important energy efficiency projects in (the) state government. The Department of Environmental Protection will implement key priorities, including re-entering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).”

“Funding key environmental and public health safeguards has suffered over years of fiscal irresponsibility, and it will take years to undo the damage done,” said Amy Goldsmith, state director for Clean Water New Jersey. “Gov. Murphy inherited this mess, and his proposed budget is moving New Jersey in the right direction.”

While Goldsmith went on to say the governor’s proposed budget is more fiscally responsible than in years past, she did acknowledge there are some diversions that can’t end quickly enough.

“It’s good to see the DEP remain relatively intact and some increased funding for Clean Energy and NJ Transit,” she said, calling on the state Legislature to work with the governor and public-interest advocates to adopt a final budget that’s fiscally sound with more tax fairness and with increased funding for clean energy, NJ Transit and the DEP. “There are two areas that need additional attention, environmental justice and workforce development, in order to expedite a transition to a clean, green, renewable economy.”

Some of the highlights of the budget, according to Goldsmith, include $1.1 billion in sustainable savings, creation of the Office of Climate Resiliency, $71 million increase for clean energy, $59 million increase for affordable homes and $25 million increase for NJ Transit.

“As more details become available and the budget process continues, we will flesh out and advocate our position further,” Goldsmith said. G.G.S.

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