New Jersey Governor Wants to Put Environment Funds Toward Road Development (Update)

nj highways photo

Image: Doc Searls via flickr

If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets his way at a budget hearing today, state funds that had been dedicated to clean energy will be redirected to highway-widening and other fossil fuel-promoting development projects; recycling funds would go instead to general state operations; and the state will be removed entirely from the 10-state Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe said, "Long term investments in global warming and environmental programs should be safeguarded, not stolen."

The proposed budget would, for example, use about $7 million from the Global Warming Solutions Fund for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's roadway widening project. About $20 million from the state's Recycling Fund, which receives money from a surcharge on garbage disposal specifically meant to support recycling, would be put into the General Fund, and that's on top of $7 million that was diverted from the program last year. And $1.3 million from the Global Warming Solutions Fund would create a new department: the Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy.

PEER explains the significance of the 10-state initiative, RGGI:

In 2008, the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Fund Act which requires that "up to 100%" of revenues from the sale of carbon credits under RGGI be used to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, innovative greenhouse gas reduction technologies and other measures to reduce energy demands and costs for low- and moderate-income New Jersey citizens.

Budget issues aside, the governor has also slowed down the process for stricter drinking water standards. And he's called the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, which protects 800,000-plus acres of open land that supplies drinking water to residents, an infringement on property rights, and has tried to shift power from government agencies to politically-appointed administrative judges.

PEER's Wolfe said, "Governor Christie promised honest budgets and an end to one-shot gimmicks but seems addicted to them."

Update: Wolfe wrote in to respond to a comment below, but was unable to post in the comments section himself so I'm including a shortened version of it here:

Dear bellabambina - I am NJ PEER Director. I spent 13 years at NJDEP and 14 as an ENGO, am a recognized expert, and take my credibility seriously.

Christie's environmental record is FAR worse than this story presents.

You praise Christie on wind and solar. But he inherited all those laws, policies, programs, plans, and funding programs from prior Administrations. He has done nothing on his own to make them better.

With a few exceptions (e.g. consistent support of off shore wind), Christie has done nothing but seek to dismantle the other energy adn global warming policy, including massive revisions to the Energy Master Plan, support for exiting RGGI, and repeal of the Global Warming Response Act. He's even thretened to end NJ's enrgy "societal benefits charge" that generates over $800 million annually for energy conservation, renewables, low income assistance, etc.

If you are a journalist, you should know all that. And that's only the energy part of Christie's regualtory rollback agenda! I find it more than curious that you do not provide any facts to support your claim that the story is misleading and that PEER is not a credible source.

But maybe you are a journalist that works for Christie? He's hired quite a few.

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