This article originally appeared on NJ Spotlight.
The state yesterday allocated nearly $45 million to bolster its efforts to electrify the transportation sector, targeting the money to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by converting heavy-duty vehicles in urban areas to electric power.
Coupled with last week’s announcement by the Murphy administration on how it will distribute $80 million in funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, New Jersey is planning to invest more than $100 million to spur the transition to electric vehicles.
Many clean-energy advocates have pushed for more aggressive actions from the administration to shift to cleaner-running vehicles to help the state achieve its goal of 100% clean energy by 2050, as well as attain steep reductions in emissions contributing to global warming.
“Together with the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan, this is a historic investment in New Jersey’s communities and environment,’’ said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe. “New Jersey transportation sector is a major source of both greenhouse gases and pollutants that threaten the health of our residents.’’
Focusing on environmental justice
Like Friday’s announcement on allocating RRGI funds, the department will focus investment on communities disproportionately impacted by pollution. In this case, the DEP will fund approximately $37.2 million worth of projects to convert old diesel trucks, buses, port equipment, marine vessels and trains to electric power.
In addition, the settlement will dedicate an additional $7.6 million for electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, including fast chargers, throughout the state.
“They’re going all in,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, and a member of ChargEVC, a coalition of clean-energy advocates who have pressing the state to electrify the transportation sector for the past few years. “This is DEP doubling down on electrifying heavy-duty vehicles.’’
The funds represent the remaining money from the state’s $72.2 million share of the national Volkswagen settlement. The settlement resulted from actions against Volkswagen for installing devices that allowed vehicles to emit pollutants without being tested by emissions-testing programs across the country.
Electrifying heavy metal
Last year, the DEP awarded $24 million in grants from the settlement to electrify garbage trucks, school buses, New Jersey Transit buses and port and airport equipment.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in January that aims to move transportation away from reliance on fossil fuels. Under that law, the state hopes to get 330,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025 and 2 million by 2035. It is a crucial part of the administration’s plans to reduce carbon pollution by 80% below 2005 levels by midcentury.
The state’s electric utilities also are looking to build out the charging infrastructure for New Jersey, but their plans face a challenge from the Division of Rate Counsel, which has asked the Board of Public Utilities to block filings by Public Service Electric & Gas and Atlantic City Electric.