Murphy directs DEP to create climate-change rules for development
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration Monday released the state’s updated Energy Master Plan, a 290-page report detailing strategies for making all the state’s energy emissions-free within 30 years.
Murphy also signed an order requiring regulatory changes by the state Department of Environmental Protection that would probably make it difficult for oil or gas projects to get state approvals by making the reduction of carbon emissions and adapting to climate change priorities when issuing permits.
“That will ensure we continue moving in the right direction and that we don’t see the progress envisioned in this plan undone by future development of fossil fuel infrastructure,” Murphy said.
The new regulations, which will take two years to develop, are branded as Protecting Against Climate Threats – or PACT, for short. The governor said proposed development projects that don’t align with efforts to shift to a clean energy economy and respond to climate change will not be approved.
“This unprecedented suite of regulations draws the line in the sand against climate change,” Murphy said in an event at Stockton University.
“No other state has as comprehensive a test. In this, New Jersey will lead the nation and set the standard,” he said. “In breaking our country from our fossil fuel habit, New Jersey will lead.”
Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said Murphy’s goals are laudable but questioned what he called “a rushed abandonment” of natural gas in the Energy Master Plan.
"Limiting access to the least expensive and most reliable and abundant source of energy we have will add to New Jersey's affordability crisis and dramatically increase costs for our already overburdened residents and job creators,” Cantor said.
Amy Goldsmith, state director of Clean Water Action, said the plan is on the right track but that the Department of Environmental Protection needs to take steps to regulate methane and black carbon, update land and water use rules and other issues.
“BPU has been working overtime the past 2 years churning out action after action on energy efficiency, offshore wind and solar. Now it’s DEP’s turn to do the same,” Goldsmith said.
The Energy Master Plan doesn’t call for phasing out nuclear power, which would still account for a projected 16% of electricity in 2050 under the plan. Wind power would account for 42%, solar for 36% and biogas the remaining 6%.
Murphy said the changes in the Energy Master Plan will “grow the economy as its powers the economy.”
“We are undertaking nothing less than a complete transformation of our energy policy. But even more, we are changing the entire game. And we are changing New Jersey for the better,” he said.
“We’re the first state in the nation that will have done the hard math and outlined a clear roadmap not just to meet but to potentially exceed our goals,” Murphy said.
However, that math did not include a calculation of what the changes may cost ratepayers. Administration officials said federal changes made as recently as December are still being reviewed and that a projection should be available by the end of March.
Republican lawmakers that by phasing out natural gas, which accounts for more than half the state’s energy production currently, costs will increase and people and businesses will leave the state.
“Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is a noble goal, but the ambition of the plan is more than our residents can afford,” said Assemblyman Ned Thomson, R-Monmouth.
Business groups and Republicans pointed out that 75% of homes and businesses in New Jersey are heated with natural gas. Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said upgrading or retrofitting houses could cost homeowners $6,000 to $25,000.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.