The environmental coalition EmpowerNJ on Wednesday filed a formal petition with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection demanding the requirement of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide by the year 2030.

According to the filing, the state is not taking the proper actions to meet this goal, a precursor to Gov. Phil Murphy's target of reducing greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, and transitioning to 100% clean energy at or before that time.

Advocates said in a Zoom press conference that the goals of that Energy Master Plan were for the most part well-intentioned, but are not aggressive or immediate enough.

"We can no longer simply talk about what needs to be done by 2050," John Reichman, BlueWaveNJ Environment Committee chair, said. "That will be too late. 2030 is the new 2050."

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The petition also calls for the issuing of permits for any potential, new fossil fuel facilities to be denied.

Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said New Jersey is not only losing ground to states like Colorado and Massachusetts, but that the European Union last week committed to a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.

The global climate crisis is now unfolding even faster than scientists long predicted it would, according to Jeff Tittel, former director of the NJ Sierra Club, now retired. Tittel said the Garden State may actually be moving backward on the Murphy administration's watch.

"There are proposals for four power plants and four pipelines under this administration," he said. "In fact, three pipelines got built under Murphy, and two power plants."

Despite being a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the petition says, New Jersey has not set any binding energy goals for the year 2030, much less any ambitious ones, as the coalition said 14 other states and the Biden administration at large have done.

And under laws signed by Murphy in 2019, New Jersey is required to establish interim benchmarks prior to its end goal in 2050, but has not yet done so.

David Pringle, EmpowerNJ steering committee member, said those mile markers cannot all be backlogged into the 2040s.

"We can't afford that long," Pringle said. "The science says we need 45% cut by 2030 at the very least. Lots of folks are doing more than that."

Under the New Jersey Administrative Procedures Act, NJDEP is legally required to take action on the petition within 60 days.

The opportunity for the agency to start to make things right is evident, according to Doug O'Malley, Environment New Jersey director.

"All the available technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in emissions by 2030 do exist," O'Malley said. "We obviously need to make sure the policies throughout the world, the nation, and the state reflect that."

In addition to the groups represented by Wednesday's speakers, Clean Water Action, Don't Gas the Meadowlands Coalition, and Food & Water Watch are also co-signers of the petition.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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