The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s recently released draft Greenhouse Gas Plan shows promise of real change, provided that the recommendations survive the trip through Trenton.
The report details strategies that the state must implement in order to meet greenhouse gas targets set out in the Global Warming Response Act, signed last year by Governor Corzine. Under the Act, NJ must reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and cut emissions to 80% under the 2006 level by 2050.
Progressive Transportation Reforms?
Recommendations touted in the report are familiar to progressive transportation and land use advocates – an expanded transit network including bus rapid transit, transit-oriented development, complete streets, zoning and planning reforms linking transportation and land use, and carbon analyses of transportation capital projects.
For reasons not entirely clear, the report puts these initiatives in a vague category called “supporting recommendations,” meant to provide a cushion for three “core” recommendations that together will meet the state’s 2020 target. The sole transportation core item is a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) program that will call for automakers to reduce fleetwide emissions from vehicles sold in NJ by 30%, and for all new vehicles sold in NJ to meet California-level emissions standards after January 1, 2009. (The reduction plan is currently the subject of litigation, though the issue may become moot by executive action in January.)
Though the document first says the “core” recommendations will meet the 2020 target by themselves, it later contradicts itself and says that the LEV program will fall short of the target by 5 million metric tons even if growth in vehicle-miles traveled is capped at 1% annually (from a current 1.7%). To achieve either the 2020 or 2050 goals, the report says that all of the supporting recommendations must be enacted in the next 18 months.
The Best-Laid Plans…
These ambiguities are not the sole concern. Many of the initiatives, including many which must be implemented in the next 18 months, will require legislative action. Given the difficulty of passing any ambitious effort through a divided legislature in an election year, the final report should clearly define each of its initiatives, and make them enactable by agency action where possible.
For all the merit of the report’s sorely needed initiatives, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is set to act as spoiler. The agency is moving ahead with widening projects on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike, adding 270 lane miles through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the state. These outdated capacity expansion projects fly in the face of every premise in the Greenhouse Gas Plan. Gains made in tailpipe measures and vehicle efficiency will be negated by increased traffic volumes, and the projects threaten to be land use disasters by opening up swathes of new land to exactly the type of sprawling development the report demonizes. The state must consider its current actions, especially after declaring in the report that “how and where New Jersey grows today will determine its carbon footprint for decades to come.”
The report acknowledges that meeting the 2050 goal, which represents the reduction necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change according to climate scientists, will require a “paradigm shift” by New Jerseyans and challenge land use and development patterns that have defined the NJ landscape for decades. It is clear New Jerseyans must drive less, not differently, in order to reduce the state’s carbon footprint in the long-term.
NJDEP is holding six meetings on the draft report to solicit public input and comment. Hopefully, the meetings will provide meaningful engagement with advocates and the public, helping the state to develop the visionary plan it needs to move forward.
- Green Buildings – Meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 from 1 PM to 4 PM in the Department of Environmental Protection’s Public Hearing Room located on the fist floor of 401 East State Street, Trenton.
- Industry, EGUs, Waste and Water – meeting on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 from 9 AM to 12 PM in the Department of Personnel’s multi-purpose room located on the first floor of 44 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton.
- Terrestrial Sequestration and Agriculture – meeting on Friday, January 9, 2009 from 9 AM to 12 PM in Department of Environmental Protection’s Public Hearing Room.
- Transportation (vehicles, fuels, and infrastructure) – meeting on Monday, January 12, 2009 from 9 AM to 12 PM in the Department of Environmental Protection’s Public Hearing Room.
- Land Use/Transportation Planning – meeting on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 from 1 PM to 4 PM in the Department of Transportation’s multi-purpose room located on the first floor of 1035 Parkway Avenue in Trenton.
- Non-CO2 Highly Warming Gases – meeting on Friday, January 16, 2009 from 9 AM to 12 PM in the Department of Environmental Protection’s Public Hearing Room.