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Climate Change Focus of Assembly Committee Hearing

Date : Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:55:30 -0400

For Immediate Release

October 10, 2013

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Climate Change Focus of Assembly Committee Hearing

Today the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committees will hear testimony on how climate change impacts New Jersey and how implementing energy efficiency, demand response, carbon reduction programs, and other strategies can help New Jersey counter the climate crisis.This Committee Meeting is especially important as Gov. Christie has denied any link between Sandy and Climate Change and his administration has weakened policies and programs that would better protect New Jersey by reducing our carbon footprint.

"Sandy was a wake call that shows climate change is real.The state of New Jersey has failed to lead when it comes to the climate change.The Governor has called the problem 'esoteric' and refused to address it.Unless we take action to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt and mitigate to climate change, we will waste money rebuilding while continuing to put people and property in harm's way," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.

Implementation of President Obama's Historic Climate Change Action Plan

In June President Obama announced his administration's next steps for building a legacy of action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.The President is also calling for sea level rise adaptation planning.

Last month the HUD Sandy Rebuilding Strategy Taskforce released its final report, which follows the President's Action Plan. If New Jersey doesn't make these changes we can lose federal money now and in the future.

As outlined in the HUD plan, New Jersey should require the latest building codes.To date the Governor's administration has refused to adopt the latest building codes as part of rebuilding and a letter from the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding addressing the subject simply notes that "New Jersey adopted the 2009 version of the model building code."The codes New Jersey is using are about 15% less efficient than current codes and new standards are being drafted this fall.We were under the impression this updates would be happening but the letter seems to indicate otherwise.

We need legislation requiring the DCA to minimally require the adoption of the 2012 International IECC codes and the ICC Green Building Standards.And legislation requiring DCA to require all buildings meet Energy Star tier three New Jersey Climate Choice Standards.

"They are avoiding their responsibility and failing to do their job of helping New Jersey rebuild in the most efficient and responsible manner," said Jeff Tittel."Energy efficiency will help reduce pollution and save people money.It is the way to rebuild smarter and better and we need the Legislature to move these updated standards forward."

HUD is calling for not just hardening the grid, but making it more resilient including distributive generation, microgrid, combined heat and power, smart grid, renewable energy and energy efficiency.They are also calling for developing a backup system of power for communications and data such as cell towers.The BPU is not requiring this in the ongoing rate increases requested by utilities for grid hardening projects. We need action in the Legislature to implement these recommendations.

As we rebuild from Sandy and plan for future climate change impacts we need to invest in energy efficiency.Energy efficiency can reduce the need for new expensive transmission lines, substations, and other distribution infrastructure, making the grid less vulnerable to falling trees and flooding.Smart grid and distributed generation technology make the grid less vulnerable to circuit outages.Clean energy mitigates the impacts of future storms by reducing carbon pollution in our atmosphere, lessening the future impacts of climate change.Distributed generation can be tied to energy storage systems such as battery backup systems and renewable systems.Focusing only on physical protection does not address the broader problems with our energy delivery system, but reducing demand begins to work on those issues.

The Legislature can support energy efficiency by requiring the BPU to adopt an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard.

The HUD plan calls for climate and sea level rise adaptation planning.Instead of moving forward with sea level rise and climate change adaptation planning, the Governor cut the DEP Office of Climate Change and has stopped progress under previous administrations to implement hazard planning to address sea level rise. He has not required programs and mapping to deal with sea level rise, climate change, and adaptation and mitigation for those impacts.

We need legislation that would require state agencies to mandate mitigation and adaption planning for sea level rise.

RGGI Creates Jobs, Improves Economy While Combatting Climate Change

Governor Christie pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and has vetoed legislation passed by both houses that prohibits New Jersey from leaving the program. RGGI is an agreement signed by the ten northeast states to cut carbon emissions from electrical generation power plants. Emissions would be cut through a surcharge on carbon pollution from the electrical generation plants as well as mandating a 10% cut in carbon pollution from the plants. The concept of RGGI is to put a fee on dirty power to get utilities and others to move towards cleaner power.The surcharge works out to be less than one half of one percent on our energy bills.The average household in New Jersey sees an approximately $6 a year increase on their energy bill because of RGGI. The money that is collected from RGGI goes out to help the environment, expand renewable energy infrastructure, and help middle class families save on their electric bills.

A report by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners found that New Jersey's participation in RGGI created $151 million in economic value and 1,772 jobs in our state.Throughout the region, RGGI saved customers $1.1 billion on their electric bills and $174 million on gas bills, offsetting the $912 million paid by customers.RGGI's energy efficiency programs helped keep $765 million in regional economy instead of going to out of state fossil fuel interests, including natural gas and coal.

Christie has diverted $63 million of the money New Jersey has received from RGGI for the budget.RGGI is successful when states use their RGGI funding to invest in services such as energy audits and rebate programs and green energy jobs and the Governor's actions hurt job creation, clean energy, and the success of the RGGI program.To replace the money that was lost from not participating in RGGI, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) is diverting BPU Clean Energy Fund monies.

While participating in RGGI, NJ reduced its greenhouse gas usage by 10% and RGGI has helped the regional economy grow by $2.3 billion while creating or saving almost 1800 jobs.

The Legislature should constitutionally dedicate New Jersey's participation in RGGI or other such climate compacts.

Governor Christie Policies Make NJ More Vulnerable

Instead of implementing adaptation and mitigation planning and reducing carbon pollution, the Governor is rolling back policies that reduce climate change pollution and promote clean energy alternatives.Governor Christie has diverted almost $900 million from different clean energy funding and his revised Energy Master Plan reduces our renewable energy goals from 30% to 22.5% in favor of more fossil fuels, contributing to climate change pollution.

Since the Governor has pulled out of RGGI there have been consequences.There has been a drop in prices in the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market, almost causing a crash.We went from first in the nation in installed solar to third and are heading to fourth.Legislation was needed to save the solar market.

We were eighth in the nation in energy efficiency and are now sixteenth.

Governor Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act
(OWEDA), but he has done nothing since to ensure we have wind turbines off our coast.Delaying offshore wind projects costs our state jobs, renewable energy, and venture capital investments.Governor Christie and his administration has failed to fully implement the OWEDA, to establish a funding mechanism for offshore wind, to jump start the manufacturing of wind turbines in our state, and to develop windmills off our coast.

The Legislature can take action against the rollbacks we have seen under the Governor.We need the Clean Energy Funds to be constitutionally dedicated to prevent further raids.We need legislation establishing a funding mechanism for offshore wind projects. The Legislature must require state agencies to actually implement the Global Warming Response Act.Action must be taken to expand the Renewable Portfolio Standard for solar.

"While other states are planning for climate change and adaptation, New Jersey has dismantled programs it previously had in place.We were once a leader in adaptation planning and the Governor may deny the science but he cannot deny the facts.New Jersey one of the most vulnerable places to climate change and sea level rise and the Governor's policies are more about his national political ambitions than protecting our coast and communities from future storms," said Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
NJ-Sierra-Chapter-Ex-Committee List Info & Archives:
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Received on 2013-10-10 09:55:30

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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