Is the Garden State Really Green?
Written by, Samuel K. Burlum,
Investigative Reporter-Author of “The Green Lane;”
Published on 3/23/15, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive
SOURCE: New Jersey ranks number one in the nation for playing host to the most “brownsfield” sites in the nation. Controversial policies continue to be of debate between the private sector, environmental activist, and the state’s leadership. Tech companies such as Tesla and Extreme Energy Solutions have questioned state’s policies regarding green technology, without resolve, leaving these companies to challenge the state.
The latest decision of Christie administration to let Exxon Mobile off the hook ends a ten year dispute between the corporate giant and the Garden State. The Christie administration settled a long lasting environmental dispute for pennies on the dollar; upsetting some environmentalist and representatives in the legislature. Letting the world’s most profitable energy company off the hook after causing massive damage to the environment is just the beginning of a string of controversial environmental policies made in the Garden State. In the article in the New York Times “Shortchanging New Jersey by Billions,” written by former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, on March 4, 2015, explains this issue in great detail.
The Current Administration refuses to share the details behind the deal. Andrew Perez and David Sirota of the International Business Times reported on March 20, 2015 that Christie’s Administration had blocked lawmakers from seeing vital documents related to the matter. The NJ DEP also rejected lawmaker’s open records request directly related to this matter.
There are many other examples of situations where the Garden State’s environmental status has been compromised; putting at stake the health and well-being of not only New Jersey’s environment, but also its residents as well. Let’s take a look at a few other most talked about decisions related to environmental-green technology most recent issues:
New Jersey Governor Vetoes Fracking Waste Ban, Despite Bipartisan Support. The Governor vetoed a very important piece of legislation that would ban the disposal of waste water/chemical material in New Jersey from neighboring states that have engaged in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. The bill, S1041 and sister bill A2108 were designed to also protect the most important regions of the state that supply drinking water to many residents from various reservoirs managed by the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation. I covered this debate extensively in my story “What the Frack?”
Green Tech Companies Question and Challenges Garden State Policies. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission denied Elon Musk and Tesla’s request to offer the Tesla vehicle through specialty retail stores. The popular electric vehicle manufacture was denied access to the free market and its eager consumers in the Garden State. Musk criticized the decision in saying, “This is an affront to the very concept of the free market.” Currently Tesla is working to overcome this challenge. Other green tech companies have also disagreed with the state’s policy in the past. Green Tech Company Extreme Energy Solutions also expressed their discontent as they questioned the state’s Diesel Retrofit Campaign, in combination with the “Stop the Soot” initiative. Extreme’s CEO had made the case that such program’s policy blocked more affordable technology as a consideration for vehicle owners who could not afford the mandated product. Fleets that were forced to comply included public transit providers, state contractors, and municipalities.
New Jersey Remove’s itself from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a program in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region which aims to create a market-based regulatory plan to cap harmful emission levels that each state produces, using CO2 as the measuring stick. The purpose of this program, aside from acting as a cap and trade tool for energy generators and providers, was supposed to usher in the adoption of clean technology such as solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources which would provide sustainable energy to nearly one-third of the nation’s population.
New Jersey, as a major corridor state, wedged between Philadelphia and New York City, would have played a major role in the success of this program. A state that is the densest in population and jammed between two major cities, most certainly would have benefitted from the participation in this program. Imagine the job creation associated with projects such as wind and solar farms that would have benefited the garden state and provided eco-friendly power to neighboring urban centers.
Attorney General’s Office Takes Actions Against Smaller Oil Companies. December 2014; the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office banned 19 brands of engine motor oil which the state claims did not meet the viscosity levels the oil manufacturers claimed they did. Not one of the major brand of oils, including brands marketed by Exxon Mobile or Hess, were ever put to the test in this investigation; only small, independent oil producers came under scrutiny. The brands of Auto Club, Black Knight, Lube State, Maxi Guard, Orbit, Tru Star, US Economy, and US Spirit were all banned from being sold in the state.
Again, these are just a few examples. New Jersey is riddled with environmental problems. New Jersey ranks number one in the nation for having the most “brownsfield” superfund sites. Most of these superfund sites are either former manufacturing sites that once handled dangerous chemicals as part of manufacturing products, or were the open dumping grounds of former offenders. The region known as the Ramapo Mountains, including sites in New Jersey in the towns of West Milford, Ringwood, and Mahwah are a grim reminder of a dark, hard lesson from what happens when legislators and leadership turn a blind eye to environmental issues.
This region contains sites full of toxic residue left by the Ford Motor Company when it used these sites to dump paint and other related chemicals in what was considered “the woods” or “boondocks.” This region also contains the largest reserves of fresh drinking water reservoirs. Recent tests have found residual compounds of poisons down-stream as far away as Totowa. This pollution has been found to be of the same chemical composition of that which is found at the original dumping sites utilized by Ford. This site was relisted as a priority by the US EPA, after the Ramapough Mountain Indians sued Ford to bring this matter to resolve.
As a result of lack of leadership in environmental justice and policy and failure to embrace green technology, the Clean Water Action gave a failing ranking to most of the state’s legislator’s for their position (or lack thereof) in protecting what is left of New Jersey’s fragile environment. Legislators in District 24 (Sussex and Part of Warren County) scored the lowest ranking overall with a score of 1 point. The report was originally published July 18, 2013 by the Clean Water Action, New Jersey Chapter (previously known as the New Jersey Environmental Federation) To see the complete score card and report click here.
One would think, a state that houses so many people, that has so many environmental issues, and could benefit from embracing environmental measures and green technology would be more favorable toward protecting its environmental assets; the people’s assets; and aim to restore the itself back to its original pristine glory. One might also figure a state that has some of the nation’s highest energy cost; would embrace green technology to not only reduce cost but also to aid in job creation related to green technology…Especially since the state is leading the nation with the highest amount of unemployment.
The Garden State bears the motto on its flag: “Liberty and Prosperity,” yet many of these controversies continue to exist pitting environmental advocates against state leadership. Visit www.SamBurlum.com for more info.