A New Environment in New Jersey?

By: Ian R. Curry

Democrat Phil Murphy, the newly elected governor of New Jersey, ran on a platform markedly different from that of his predecessor, Chris Christie, on nearly every environmental and energy issue. Although Governor Murphy took office only a month ago, signs of a new direction in environmental policy in New Jersey are beginning to show.

In December, Governor Murphy chose Catherine McCabe to head the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).[1] McCabe, a seasoned federal regulator with significant experience in both the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, was greeted with enthusiasm by environmentalists in New Jersey.[2] Both the New Jersey Sierra Club[3] and Clean Water Action[4] supported her nomination to the post. Commissioner McCabe emphasized the importance of combating climate change in her announcement speech.[5] Other priorities of the McCabe DEP include improving New Jersey’s water infrastructure and reducing air pollution.[6]

Among a laundry list of environmental goals, Governor Murphy set a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. Governor Murphy hopes to achieve this goal by bolstering the solar industry in New Jersey and tapping into the offshore wind potential off the New Jersey coast.[7]

In New Jersey Executive Order #8,[8] Governor Murphy directed the DEP and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act[9] and promote the development of offshore wind energy generation. The executive order set a goal of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy generation by 2030.[10]

In addition, Governor Murphy joined the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware in supporting a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin.[11] In an accompanying statement, Governor Murphy made clear that “[f]racking should not have a role in the energy future of New Jersey.”[12]

Following through on a campaign promise, Governor Phil Murphy signed New Jersey Executive Order #7[13] mandating that the DEP and BPU begin the process of reentering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).[14] RGGI[15] is a regional cap and trade program established in 2005 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the northeast.

New Jersey was one of the original members of RGGI until former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie removed New Jersey from RGGI in 2012 concluding the program was “a failure” and “not effective in reducing greenhouse gases….”[16] Governor Murphy alluded to the prior administrations action in Executive Order #7 stating that “in an effort to correct past missteps and realign [New Jersey’s] priorities with those based on sound science designed to mitigate the impacts of global climate change … it is appropriate for the State of New Jersey to rejoin RGGI….”[17]

The Murphy Administration is still in an early stage, therefore the prospects for New Jersey’s ability to implement new environmental policies remains unclear. However, these early changes indicate a new, more environmentally focused administration is in powe

[1] Press Release, DEP Welcomes Catherine R. McCabe As Acting Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Jan. 24, 2018), http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2018/18_0007.htm.

[2] Id.

[3] Press Release, Catherine McCabe Excellent Choice DEP Commissioner, InsiderNJ (Dec. 27, 2017), https://www.insidernj.com/press-release/catherine-mccabe-excellent-choice-dep-commissioner/.

[4] Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action Applauds McCabe as New NJDEP Commissioner, Clean Water Action (Dec. 21, 2017), https://www.cleanwateraction.org/releases/clean-water-action-applauds-mccabe-new-njdep-commissioner.

[5] Marisa Iati, Murphy nominates ex-acting EPA chief as state DEP commissioner, NJ.com (Dec. 21, 2017), http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/12/murphy_taps_former_acting_administrator_of_epa_to.html.

[6] Id.

[7] Key Initiatives: Environment, NJ.gov, http://www.nj.gov/governor/initiatives/#Environment (last visited Feb. 18, 2018).

[8] N.J. Exec. Order No. 8 (Jan. 31, 2018) [http://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-8.pdf].

[9] N.J. Stat. Ann. § 48:3-87.2 (2010).

[10] N.J. Exec. Order No. 8 (Jan. 31, 2018) [http://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-8.pdf].

[11] Daniel Bryan, Governor Murphy Declares Support for Fracking Ban in the Delaware River Basin, NJ.gov (Feb. 1, 2018), http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562018/approved/20180201a_other.shtml.

[12] Id.

[13] N. J. Exec. Order No. 7 (Jan. 29, 2018) [http://www.nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-7.pdf].

[14] Daniel Bryan, Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Directing New Jersey to Reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, NJ.gov (Jan. 29, 2018), http://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562018/approved/20180129a_eo.shtml.

[15] Welcome, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, https://www.rggi.org/ (last visited Feb. 18, 2018).

[16] Christopher Baxter, Gov. Christie announces N.J. pulling out of regional environmental initiative, NJ.com (May 26, 2011), http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/05/gov_christie_to_announce_nj_pu.html.

[17] N.J. Exec. Order No. 7 (Jan. 29, 2018) [http://www.nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-7.pdf].

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