Newark, NJ — Expanding on what Clean Water Action has called “the strongest clean energy agenda by far,” Democratic candidate for Governor Phil Murphy advanced new policy initiatives today to improve the quality of life in environmental justice communities.
Murphy and Clean Water Action highlighted solutions that tie economic growth, social justice, the environment, and public health together to the benefit of communities such as Newark’s South and East wards, which Clean Water Action called “ground zero for environmental justice.”
“We must come to realize that strong environmental policy is not just something for our rural and suburban areas, but is also critical to our cities. Clean air and water is a right for all New Jerseyans, and we get there when we ensure that all communities benefit from sound environmental policy. That is environmental justice,” said Murphy. “I am prepared to be a governor of action, who turns our state’s thinking around, and who sets us on a future course to both do well and do good, and to prove that economic growth, environmental protection, and environmental justice must all go together.”
Murphy said that as many as one in four Newark children have asthma, which is correlated to air quality. He noted that Weequahic Park, for instance, intersects industry, major commercial truck and rail routes, the airport, and seaport, often making the air too dirty for nearby residents to breathe.
“Areas like this are some of the hardest hit by pollution. Communities of color and low income communities in urban areas too often face cumulative and disproportionate adverse impacts. As a Newark resident and mother of three asthmatic children, I know what it’s like to sit in an ER watching your young child struggling to breath,” stated Kim Gaddy, an Environmental Justice Organizer with Clean Water Action who played a key role in securing Newark’s land mark cumulative impacts ordinance. “We can’t escape the pollution, it’s everywhere, our neighborhoods, our homes, and our parks. It’s great that Phil Murphy isn’t just bringing attention to the issue, but will do something about it.”
Key pieces of Murphy’s environmental justice agenda include:
- Immediately stopping the raid of the Clean Energy Fund to increase funding for energy efficiency programs and especially provide environmental justice (EJ) communities the capacity to access new local jobs and revenue generation in the clean energy economy. These programs are the most cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are crucial for reducing energy bills and ensuring future sustainability. Since 2010, Governor Christie has taken more than $1 billion from the Clean Energy Fund to balance the state budget and costing the state over 10,000 jobs.
- Prioritizing port infrastructure projects that reduce diesel emissions and related adverse health impacts in ports adjacent EJ communities. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey runs the largest port on the East Coast. The trucks, rail, ships and cargo handling at the marine terminals release substantial amounts of carbon and pollutants into the air, which impact downwind communities and those living along the transportation corridor. Emissions at our ports pose a severe risk to public health in EJ communities. Phil will insist the Port prioritize infrastructure projects that facilitate electrification of transportation at its crossings and reduce emissions at its ports.
- Establishing community solar. At least half of New Jersey residents cannot access solar because they do not own their homes or have shaded roofs. Phil will support legislation to create a community solar program that brings solar access to everyone, especially New Jersey’s low-income residents. Allowing people to buy shares of community solar projects will help more New Jerseyans unlock the financial and personal benefits of solar energy. Community solar also ensures that EJ neighborhoods can take advantage of the opportunities that clean energy provides.
- Releasing and using the comprehensive cumulative impact analysis tool to inform state programs, project future needs, and give a meaningful voice to EJ communities in decision-making processes. For decades, NJDEP has delayed developing or sharing tools to document the multiple environmental burdens EJ communities face, including the disproportionate impact of climate change. Phil will prioritize developing this technical tool for good, making it publically available and addressing the most egregious cases of environmental harm in these communities.
- Putting New Jersey on a path to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050, including a new state Energy Master Plan in 2018, with targets of 3,500 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind generation by 2030, 600 MW of clean energy storage by 2021 with a goal of 2000 MW deployed by 2030, while making sure EJ communities are 100% part of the plan and its implementation.
“Port activities are one of the largest contributors to the area’s dirty air. We need willing and effective leadership to take on this issue, and Phil Murphy is the man for the job. Getting New Jersey to 100 percent clean energy and running our ports through these sources would tremendously reduce air pollution and be the ultimate beneficial environmental justice equalizer,” concluded Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action’s NJ State Director and chair of Coalition for Healthy Ports, a collaboration of labor, community and environmental groups to get the Port of NY&NJ to clean up its act.
Clean Water Action is a one million-member nationwide organization with more than 100,000 New Jersey members.