Regional Plan Association Comments on the Draft 2019 New Jersey Energy Master Plan

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Nat Bottigheimer, New Jersey Director at Regional Plan Association, a non-profit civic organization that conducts advocacy, research and planning to improve the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region.

We support Governor Murphy’s and the NJBPU’s efforts to update New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan at a time when the consequences of climate change are becoming more dire, and the urgency to act daily, a priority.  

Notwithstanding the exciting progress being made in the strategically important area of offshore wind energy, we must express our growing impatience to see implementation plans across the board that can credibly lead to meeting the climate goals articulated in the State plan.

We also must express the critical importance of:

  • Activating idle state functions – such as the State Planning Commission – that facilitate coordinated state action on system-level factors that contribute so greatly to greenhouse gas production (such as land development and transportation behavior); and
  • Tasking critically important state agencies, such as NJDOT, with achieving emission reduction targets. Too often, state transportation agencies cede responsibility for GHG-reducing strategies to others who it is hoped will bring carbon-free technologies to power vehicles on roads that function in future substantially as they do today.

We do not have the luxury to allow state agencies whose missions support the single largest source of GHG-generating activity in New Jersey – 46% -- to cede such responsibility. New Jersey’s state transportation agencies MUST be assigned clear responsibilities to meet GHG reduction targets as part of a comprehensive, effective EMP, even if that means taking on roles, partner relationships, and technical challenges that those agencies may find new, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.

RPA’s complete comments on the Draft 2019 Energy Master Plan (EMP) have been submitted separately. RPA offers the following additional, abbreviated, comments here today:

Take a Comprehensive Approach to Reducing Transportation Emissions

Electric Vehicles

  • Set long-term goals for electrification. The State should set longer term goals than those included in the Draft EMP to meet – and hopefully exceed – emissions targets. Without a longer-term goal, important steps that need to be taken today could be threatened or delayed.
  • Develop a phased pathway to 100% diesel-free NJ Transit Buses by 2050. NJ Transit’s fleet of over 3,000 buses presents a significant opportunity to reduce contributions of greenhouse gas emissions. Moving on such a goal by adopting a phased implementation plan and timetable can also help accelerate evolution in electric bus technology by fueling demand.     

New Jersey Must Lead, Not Lag, on GHG & Clean Energy Goals

Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions 80% by 2050 is a laudable goal, but needs a companion implementation plan that shows how we’ll get there.

The Draft 2019 EMP sets a goal for “100% clean energy by 2050.” As above, this is a laudable goal, but a clear definition of what this means is needed. We urge the State to target 100 percent carbon neutrality, and to define how carbon-free and carbon-reducing technologies will combine to meet GHG reduction goals.

Maximize the Potential for Offshore Wind

  • Increase power generation goals. New York recently announced its intent to develop over 9GW of capacity, and New Jersey should be thinking of similar goals.
  • Work with neighboring states to position the region as an offshore wind development hub. Other regions, such Massachusetts-Rhode Island and Maryland-Virginia, are collaborating to position their states to capture the investments of manufacturers and other supply chain companies. The states of our region should collaborate to maximize shared port infrastructure and workforce and position this region as the nation’s offshore wind development hub.

Achieving Equity Goals

  • Invest a set percentage of mitigation funds back into underrepresented communities.
    New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act stipulates that at least 35% of all mitigation funds be spent in communities that have traditionally been underrepresented and have borne environmental injustice. New Jersey should consider adopting a similar approach to ensure that the state’s investment goes where it’s needed most.  

Getting to Implementation

Achieving even the goals of the Draft 2019 EMP – not to mention the more aggressive goals that RPA believes are needed – will be challenging and will require significant investments and changes in governance.

Develop New Sources of Revenue Generation

The State needs to identify and begin implementing ways to generate the revenue to pay for planned transformations.

  • Consider the following revenue-generating sources:
    • A Millionaires Tax for a Zero-Carbon Future;
    • Additional and/or reallocation of highway tolling;
    • Cap-and-invest for transportation (TCI);
    • Carbon tax

The State should also ensure that the investment plans supported by these revenues are accompanied by business case studies documenting the economic co-benefits that these investments will bring to New Jersey residents and businesses.

Responsibly Phase Out Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

  • Develop a fossil fuel infrastructure phase-out plan.
    The State needs to send a clear signal that the transformation away from greenhouse gases is real and orderly. 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments and for taking steps to advance New Jersey as a clean energy state. We look forward to working closely with the State to consider any of the approaches described above.