Governor Murphy’s Second Term Environmental Priorities
With the beginning of his second term this year, it seems probable that Governor Murphy’s environmental priorities will focus largely on the continued implementation priorities he identified at the outset of his administration as opposed to new ones. To that end, climate change and environmental justice (and more broadly - community-based environmental concerns) will continue to occupy center stage; however, each of those issues encompass a myriad of ancillary issues that present their own challenges. Notably, very little mention of these issues was made in the Governor’s State of the State Address delivered on January 11, 2022.
With respect to climate change, the first wave of Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT) rules will be finalized by the NJDEP over the course of the year, including those aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions at electric generating facilities and those aimed at resiliency and land use regulatory changes designed to tackle the challenges presented by sea level rise, stormwater and flooding.
Along with those regulatory developments, continued (and expanded) programmatic emphasis on promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs), EV charging infrastructure and port electrification is expected. The longstanding initiative to promote solar energy development will continue alongside the new initiative to promote wind energy development. The administration is promoting both the environmental and economic benefits of wind energy, with heavy emphasis on the development of the huge Wind Port in Salem County. This hub-style marshalling port project will manufacture parts for and serve as a parts marshaling location for offshore wind projects in New Jersey and all along the east coast. Full scale construction is anticipated to occur in 2022 into 2023.
The administration will also face increasing pressure coming from some public sectors for a fossil fuel power plant construction moratorium and a ban on additional natural gas pipeline construction.
Environmental Justice (EJ) will also see the roll out a major regulatory package to implement the New Jersey EJ Law, which is likely to come under heavy scrutiny by both business and environmental justice advocates during the coming year. While the applicability of the EJ law is limited to certain designated permits and facilities, EJ is also likely to be promoted across multiple agencies under existing programs based on the mandates of the Governor’s Executive Order #23 which requires that “all Executive branch departments and agencies shall consider the issue of Environmental Justice” in their decision-making. These initiatives will be monitored closely by the Governor’s EJ Interagency Council.
With the Governor having made it clear that much new state investment will be targeted to EJ communities, the administration will also participate in defining the range of projects, priorities and investments for the newly available federal funding under the 2020 federal infrastructure legislation a significant portion of which will be directed to address pressing environmental and public health issues in these communities. This will include replacing aging lead water pipes, cleaning up Superfund sites, acquiring new electric school buses, upgrading public transit systems and the electric grid, as well as a variety of other funding programs.
As if the above were not enough, we expect the administration, through the NJDEP, to continue to focus on implementation of the new Dirty Dirt Law, response to the public concern over the perceived threat to public health presented by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the ongoing initiative to secure redress for damage to natural resources at contaminated sites, and enhanced recycling efforts.