New Jersey Environmental Lobby Newsletter - Spring 2017
Subject: Gubernatorial Primary Election- Tuesday June 6 -
On May 9, Stockton University hosted a debate for gubernatorial primary candidates. The debate covered a range of issues, including property taxes, public education, Atlantic City and casinos, and legalization of marijuana. This supplement is focused only on the questions about environmental issues. NJEL lobbyist Noemi de la Puente attended the debate. With the assistance of Linda Dickman, we reviewed the debate video and surveyed the candidates’ campaign web sites to gather additional information. We hope the following summary of the debate will help you make an informed decision on primary election day. Note: unless a response appears in quotes, it is a third-person account or paraphrase of a candidate’s answer.
The event was composed of two debates: two Republican candidates debated in the first hour, and four Democratic candidates debated in the second hour. Many of the same questions were asked in the two segments so for ease of comparison, each question is shown once, with all candidate responses under it. With only two Republican participants, there was time for more questions in that debate. Questions that were rephrased, substituted, or eliminated in the Democratic segment are indicated.
Republican: Jack Ciattarelli, NJ Assembly, District 16; Owner, Galen Publishing LLC
Kim Guadagno, Lieutenant Governor of NJ; Former Federal Prosecutor
Democratic: Jim Johnson, Former Federal Prosecutor, Former U. S. Treasury Official
Raymond Lesniak, NJ Senate, District 20; Partner. Weiner Lesniak
Phil Murphy, Former Goldman Sachs Executive; Former Ambassador to Germany
John Wisniewski, NJ Assembly, District 19; Attorney, Wisniewski & Associates
Question: What are your short term and long term plans to mitigate the effects of climate change and to make NJ more resilient to climate change?
Guadagno: New Jersey must accept and address climate change. NJ must return to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and must “look at renewables.” Ms. Guadagno has installed solar panels on her residence. “We need to be more responsive to our environment.”
Ciattarelli: “We should . . .celebrate. . . the unprecedented era of natural gas discovery and extraction. It is creating a very natural evolution from coal to oil to natural gas. . .Technology and the markets will drive what it is that we use for renewable energy sources in the years to come. We do not want to rush this and in turn waste taxpayer dollars.” He did not say at what point market forces would be considered favorable for renewables, or how renewable energy would “waste taxpayer dollars,” as opposed to the costs of sea level rise and extreme storms.
Mr. Ciattarelli opposes RGGI, stating that because Pennsylvania is not a member, NJ is at a competitive disadvantage. He believes that energy policy must be addressed nationally rather than at a state or even regional level. He did not specify what the elements of a national policy should be.
The above question was rephrased for the Democratic candidates to ask: What if anything would you do to reduce the impact of climate change on NJ?
Johnson: Must have the “will” to do so. He would appoint a Chief Science Officer to ensure that science is “at the center of State policy.” He would rejoin RGGI. The State must invest in green technology and projects that will create jobs and reduce emissions. Mr. Johnson mentioned the Hudson River Rail Tunnel and Fishermen’s Energy wind farm as opportunities that were deliberately missed. NJ has slipped from #2 in solar generation and Rhode Island, New York, and Maryland have surpassed NJ in wind power generation. He would invest in installation of electric car charging stations throughout the state. With the dismantling of regulations by the Trump administration, NJ must not only maintain its environmental standards, but strengthen them.
Lesniak: “New Jersey is at ground zero of climate change.” Noted that a recent study predicts that without remedial action, 20% of New Jersey could be underwater in 50 years. “Kill the four pipelines,” and redirect the investments to renewables and mass transit. The pipelines will make NJ fossil-fuel dependent for a century. In contrast, Mr. Lesniak states that his “New Jersey Grow Healthy” plan, could make NJ fossil fuel-free by 2050. The Plan can be found at: http://ray4gov.com/the-issues/njgrow-healthy/. As Governor, Mr. Lesniak would take the plan beyond the State, to the National Governors’ Council because the problem is not limited to a state, but is national.
Although not a debate question, Senator Lesniak referenced the lawsuit he filed as a private party to overturn the settlement made by Governor Christie with Exxon Mobil. Governor Christie agreed to accept $225 million as settlement for natural resource damages totaling $9.2 billion at refinery sites. The suit has been ongoing for almost two years and was filed concurrently with another suit filed by seven environmental organizations.
Murphy: Will rejoin RGGI and increase development of solar and offshore wind power (OSW). There is the potential to generate 3500 MW from OSW by 2030, enough to power 1.5 million homes. We must embrace Environmental Justice and institute community solar programs so that inner city residents receive the benefits of renewable energy. New Jersey needs a “new mindset” at the Board of Public Utilities, one that values innovation and conservation. There was insufficient time to explain this, but it can be assumed that he was referring to the failure to adopt a Wind Energy Credit framework that would facilitate financing for development. Mr. Murphy said that we must “battle back from a hostile federal administration . . . governors will never matter more.”
Wisniewski: Governor Christie has dismantled environmental protections by underfunding the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and diverting money from the Clean Energy Fund. DEP must be adequately funded and the Clean Energy Fund must be used for its intended purpose. The DEP must be staffed with scientists who are given the resources to do their jobs. The PACE program, conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie, must be expanded.
Question: Should NJ allow offshore wind turbines (OSW)?
Guadagno: OSW is important to produce clean energy and to create job opportunities, provided it is done “in the proper way.” She seemed to be alluding to impacts on tourism. Ms. Guadagno said NJ has the chance to be the first U.S. generator of OSW power. (Note: Rhode Island is already doing so.) She also said that there are leases available for OSW developers but that for 7 years the state has been “trying to find an entity that is in a position to actually build turbines.” Ms. Guadagno did not mention the Board of Public Utility’s (BPU) failure to adopt a framework for wind energy credits, which would facilitate financing for wind farms. She also failed to mention the BPU’s dismissal of the Fishermen’s Energy Project. She did mention that OSW energy could be a replacement for some of Oyster Creek’s output when that reactor is shut down.
Ciattarelli: No offshore turbines. He stated that NJ uses clean natural gas and that 50% of NJ’s electricity is generated with zero-emission nuclear power. He did not say what will replace Oyster Creek’s output when that plant is closed. He said that wind turbines are “high maintenance,” but did not provide comparisons with other generation methods. He did not mention the extraction, transportation, and waste disposal costs of fossil fuels. “We want to look to renewable energies as these technologies become more productive and much more cost efficient and less maintenance intensive.” He did not address why public entities and businesses in New Jersey and across the country have already invested in solar and wind power
For the Democratic candidates, the above question was replaced with: What is your actual plan to develop clean renewable energy sources? Some of the responses reiterated points made in discussing climate change.
Johnson: Referred to the points made about climate change and added that a Governor must lead in reaching clean energy goals, including working with industry and making the required investments. He cited environmental education of the public as an important component, to convince individuals that they have some personal responsibility in the issue. The Governor must lead in changing the “civic consciousness” regarding climate change and clean energy
Lesniak: Investing in mass transit and adopting the California vehicle emissions standards are necessary for reaching the 100% clean energy goal.
Murphy: Mr. Murphy referenced his plan for a 100% clean energy economy by 2050. The plan can be found at: www.murphy4nj.com/issue/building-a-clean-energy-economy/. Elements include solar and OSW as well as a goal for energy storage capability. Mr. Murphy noted that NJ lost 1000 solar industry jobs in 2016, while the solar industry was booming around the country. He noted that Rhode Island got ahead of NJ, with the first OSW power generation in the nation. He reiterated that Environmental Justice must be a component of an energy policy. Conservation must also be a component, and the BPU must value conservation in its analyses.
Wisniewski: Reiterated importance of PACE and the Clean Energy Fund. Close to 50% of carbon emissions in NJ are from vehicles, so we must invest in mass transit in order to get people out of cars. To do so, buses and trains must be safe and dependable. Fracking must be banned. Fracking is not carried on in NJ (Editor’s note: known gas reserves do not justify it) but it is carried on in New York and Pennsylvania, states that occupy the Delaware River Basin with NJ.
Question: Clean drinking water is crucial to New Jersey’s economic future and the health of our families. What are your plans for protecting drinking water sources in the Highlands and the Pinelands?
Ciattarelli: Mr. Ciattarelli described New Jersey’s aged water infrastructure as in “crisis.” He would establish a Blue Ribbon Panel to formulate a plan for rebuilding and would look for public-private partnerships to find solutions.
Mr. Ciattarelli’s response to protecting Highlands and Pinelands water sources focused on pipelines. While he is a proponent of natural gas, he said there should be no pipelines in those regions. He would work with industry and policy makers to “find ways to transport natural gas . . .” He did not address the development pressures in those regions, or the politicized appointments to the Commissions.
Guadagno: Ms. Guadagno continued the theme of pipelines, without mentioning the Highlands and Pinelands Management Plans or the Commissions. There must be a “balance between the environment . . . and jobs,” a “sane” way to put pipelines in the right place, an “evidence and objective-based program” to avoid future battles.
Johnson: We need to focus on “the source to the faucet,” starting at the local level. Water Commission members must know science and must act with a “public purpose.” Environmental standards must reflect new knowledge about materials that are entering our water. Fifteen school districts have elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in their facilities. Technologies exist to remedy this and we must adopt them.
Lesniak: Sen. Lesniak reminded the audience that he sponsored the first Safe Drinking Water bill in the nation, requiring testing for hydrocarbons in drinking water, and established the Drinking Water Quality Institute. This is a panel of scientists that researches the latest information about contaminants in water and identifies chemicals that should be monitored and/or removed from water supplies. Years ago, the Institute’s scientists recommended adding 12 chemicals to water testing protocols. Governor Christie ignored the recommendations. The Senator pointed out that his career has been focused on protecting New Jersey’s water, and he was involved in the passage of the Pinelands Act.
Murphy: Called for less politics in appointments to the Highlands and Pinelands Commissions. Oversight of these regions has become politicized. His priority would be oversight that is consistent with the intended purposes of the Commissions.
Wisniewski: Gov. Christie “re-engineered” the membership of the Pinelands Commission in order to obtain Commission approval of a gas pipeline through a protected area. We need to “push back” against the Pilgrim and Penn East pipelines because of the damage they could do to water sources. We must recognize the danger of fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The moratorium on fracking in the DRB is at risk of being lifted. The moratorium should become a permanent ban throughout the DRB. The State must devote money to buying additional open space to protect drinking water sources.
Question: How would you meet New Jersey’s critical infrastructure needs?
Ciattarelli: The gas tax should be indexed to inflation to avoid sudden, double digit gas tax increases, as occurred last year.
Guadagno: Opposes the politically appointed “Panel of Four” that will allocate the gas tax receipts to transportation infrastructure projects.
The question above was not asked of the Democratic candidates
Question: What will you do to improve public transportation, and not just in and out of New York City?
Ciattarelli: Needs must be prioritized for allocations from the gas tax. There must be redeployment of funds so that New Jersey Transit problems are addressed first. Agencies should be reorganized into a framework that will ensure that revenues from transportation are used for transportation and do not disappear into the General Fund. Motor Vehicles, DOT, and NJ Transit should be “under the same roof” for better accountability and to make state transportation more “self-sustainable.”
Guadagno: “I will audit Trenton” and make sure that “money (meant for) transit is actually being spent on transit.”
The question above was not asked of the Democratic candidates. The subject was included in some of the responses to previous questions. Several Democratic candidates connected improving mass transit to reducing the need for oil in their responses to the following question:
What is your position on oil drilling off the Atlantic coast and why do you feel that way?
Johnson: “I have known since I was a child . . .that the Jersey shore is one of our State’s great assets.” The Attorney General would be authorized to fight drilling in the courts. Would work with the Congressional delegation to prevent drilling.
Lesniak: “Any candidate for public office who supports drilling off the Atlantic coast should get his or her head examined.” To improve mass transit, thereby reducing the use of oil, the Senator would place citizen representatives on the Port Authority and NJ Transit Boards. They would be nominated by commuter advocates, not by politicians. They would be voting members. The Senator expects that this would expose wasteful spending and improve policies.
Murphy: Embrace OSW and not offshore drilling. That would protect the Jersey shore while creating high paying union jobs. Invest in rail infrastructure and a clean energy economy.
Wisniewski: “Horrible idea” Would ruin coastline, hurt our economy, kill tourism. The Governor must be an advocate for our State. To prevent offshore drilling, we must address the fossil fuel economy. We must invest in mass transit so that people get out of their cars. We must redirect money to buses and trains. A new Port Authority bus terminal must be built within a reasonable amount of time. There must be leadership at NJ Transit, not micromanagement by the Governor’s office. Change the relationship with AMTRAK at New York Penn Station to improve service to NJ commuters.
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