A new coalition of more than 30 environmental, labor, and community organizations is urging New Jersey lawmakers to do more about the threat of climate change and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Dan Fatton, executive director of the Work Environment Council, said the coalition, called Jersey Renews, is a ray of hope in the era of President Donald Trump. As a candidate, Trump called climate change “a hoax invented by the Chinese” and in the early days of his administration, has implemented a temporary media “black out” at the Environmental Protection Agency and a freeze on new grants and contracts. The president has also promised to scale back government regulations and pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate accord.
“When we see the news that’s coming out of Washington, it’s fairly horrifying,” Fatton said. “We’ve seen the clampdown on EPA, the gag order on climate, the removal of climate change from the White House website. So, we know that we need states to take strong action if we actually want to address what is a global crisis.”
Coalition members say Trump ally, Gov. Chris Christie has also resisted measures to mitigate the effect of climate change and they are working together on new policy proposals for when a new governor takes office next year.
Amy Goldsmith, executive director of Clean Water Action, hopes state lawmakers don’t wait to act on measures to reduce greenhouse gain emissions and increase the use of renewable energy.
“New Jersey has a long history of having environmental champions,” she said. “We’ve had a little bit of a drought, but we want to turn that around and we’ll see what happens in the next six to nine months where the legislature might feel a little more freedom with an outgoing governor.”
Coalition members say they’ll work on more environmental legislation so the bills are ready for enactment when the next governor takes over.
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) said creating a clean energy economy should be one of New Jersey’s top priorities.
“We’ve been very frustrated in getting these kinds of things done right now,” she said. “We’ve gotten a few done, but many important initiatives have not. Laying the foundation, getting the bills in, trying to get them passed right now is important so we’re ready when the new governor comes in.”
But New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel warned that will take time.
“There’s going to be differences between some other groups and battles between solar and others, but now is the time to fix these things so next year when we have a new governor and that’s less than a year from now, we can roll out a lot of bills and get them passed even if this governor vetoes them,” he said.