TOMS RIVER – Environmental advocates were vocal with their displeasure of Gov. Phil Murphy’s master plan for New Jersey’s energy future, during a rally held on the grounds of the Toms River’s municipal building.
Advocates and several lawmakers have said in recent weeks that the plan doesn’t go far enough to sever the state from projects promoting fossil fuels that have been linked to global warming.
The Toms River gathering took place prior to one of a series of hearings convened around the state by the state Board of Public Utilities on a working draft of the Energy Master Plan. The governor has touted the EMP as progressive, because it sets the state on the path toward 100 percent “clean” energy by 2050.
About 25 members of the Empower NJ movement, which consists of more than 10 environmental, citizen, and community groups made their message loud and clear during a press conference held outside Township Hall prior to the hearing.
Brick resident Janet Tauro holds positions of leadership in several environmental groups such as Clean Water Action and Radiation Public Health Project. She led off the press conference which included the backdrop of fellow activists waving signs, carrying banners and wearing themed T-shirts.
She said the coalition is focusing on a local approach to the global climate crisis stating that it has already impacted New Jersey. The groups present at the session included: People Over Pipelines, New Jersey Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Surfrider Foundation, Clean Ocean Action, Save Barnegat Bay, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Clean Water Action, and others.
“Right here in Ocean County and, in this spot…we’ve lived through the devastating impacts of climate change. Superstorm Sandy destroyed lives, property, and put the Oyster Creek nuclear plant at risk. We have sea level rise and regular flooding. Walk through some of the towns on the Barrier Island at high tide, and there are flooded streets even when it’s not raining,” Tauro said.
“Let’s not make it worse. Let’s get off fossil fuels and nuclear now. Every fossil fuel project and every moment that the Salem and Hope Creek nukes operate, is time lost to fighting climate change by not supercharging an agenda that puts renewable energy and efficiency at the forefront,” she said.
She added, “BPU, now is your moment. This is your chance to take meaningful action to save the planet.”
Tauro and others who spoke acknowledged that the governor’s draft Energy Master Plan has good intent, “however, it does not address the situation that we are in as a climate emergency,” Tauro added.
Greenhouse gas emissions globally set an all-time high last year. Tauro said greenhouse gases must “be regulated to achieve the United Nations’ 2030 target and the Global Warming Response Act’s 2050 mandate. The Energy Master Plan tepidly proposes to wait until 2020 to begin discussion if we are to regulate greenhouse gases.
“We know climate change is real. We need action now. We need a plan that is forward looking. We need Gov. Murphy to be the green governor he should be,” Peter Blair, policy attorney for Clean Ocean Action said.
Those present expressed a need to voice strong support for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects. They also advocated for people in the Ocean County area concerned about climate change, fossil fuel power plants and pipelines, to speak up.
David Pringle, a member of the steering committee for Save Barnegat Bay, spoke for his group expressing concern for the future health of the Barnegat Bay. “The water quality of the Barnegat Bay is directly linked to this Energy Master Plan. We need the governor to do more.”
“Before we can reduce the damage, we have to stop making it continue,” Pringle said, calling for the governor to hold up the building of pipeline projects currently in litigation.
Union activist Carol Gay, Brick, said “there are 15 fossil fuel projects in New Jersey. We are asking for a moratorium on them. It has to be done now.”
Around 100 people attended the public hearing held inside the municipal building. The protestors continued to speak against the plan at the hearing, but some others were in favor of it.
“We support this master plan,” Kevin Westhoven of New Jersey Resources said. New Jersey Resources (NJR), provides energy and natural gas services including transportation, distribution and asset management.