Stafford and State, Growing ‘Greener’ Together

By Victoria Ford | Oct 30, 2019

Stafford Township — Stafford Township has been approved for a grant through the state’s “It Pay$ to Plug In” program, which helps to offset the cost of purchasing and installing electric vehicle charging stations. The town is now awaiting a grant agreement from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection to receive funding, according to Mayor Greg Myhre.

Given electric vehicles dramatically reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, the “Plug In” program is designed to expand New Jersey’s growing network of electric vehicle infrastructure, allowing residents, businesses and government agencies to purchase and drive electric vehicles.

“We have not received the grant agreement, which would allow the township to then work on this,” Myhre said. “Stafford Township pursues grants that we believe are in the best interests of the residents of our great community.”

Stafford Green Teamer Barbara Reynolds said, “It sounds like a step in the right direction to reduce our reliance on petroleum, and that’s a good thing. Glad to see Stafford Township being the role model for other towns in Ocean County.”

A bill in the state Legislature would expand electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state and increase rebates for consumers looking to purchase an electric car. State Senate Bill S2252, along with corresponding Assembly Bill A4819, “establishes goals, initiatives, and programs to encourage and support the use of plug-in electric vehicles.” The Senate bill went to the Budget and Appropriations Committee last October; the Assembly Bill has been in the Environment and Solid Waste Committee since December 2018.

Meanwhile, New Jersey aims to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050, with plans to re-enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative early next year. New Jersey was an original member of RGGI until exiting the program in 2012. (Current members of RGGI include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.)

RGGI is the nation’s first multi-state, market-based cap-and-trade program designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plants generating 25 or more megawatts. RGGI participants allocate, award and transfer carbon allowances through an auction process as an annual carbon dioxide cap declines. The process encourages more market efficiencies, development of renewable energy, and technology improvements for power plants.

Proceeds from the auctions are disbursed to states for a variety of programs that include energy efficiency assistance for consumers, renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and electricity bill assistance.

Now the state DEP, Board of Public Utilities and Economic Development Authority want to educate the public about the possible funding strategies that could receive the anticipated revenue.

“New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act establishes a 2050 goal to reduce carbon emissions statewide by 80 percent below 2006 levels, and our most recent greenhouse gas inventory shows we still have a way to go to meet that goal,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said.

A just-released document announces electrification and environmental justice as policy priorities for RGGI funds and explains the various regulatory and statutory requirements associated with the RGGI auction process. The DEP, BPU and EDA present examples of how state agencies could distribute New Jersey’s RGGI auction proceeds for 2020 through 2023.

As part of the document’s release, the three agencies have scheduled a series of in-person workshops and one webinar to engage with stakeholders and the public on how best to use proceeds once the state rejoins RGGI in January. The public workshops will be held around the state, each hosted by a different agency, to gather a broad spectrum of input. While each workshop will have a different overall focus, the agendas and format will be the same, and all three agencies will participate in each session.

The meeting dates and locations, as well as online registration, are outlined at  nj.gov/rggi/.

“Our reentry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative gives us the opportunity to invest in programs that tackle greenhouse gas emissions with a focus on our most overburdened environmental justice communities,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “Investing this funding in a strategic and coordinated way will help us achieve our goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”

McCabe said the RGGI scoping document “directly links our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases to the state’s investments in electrification and environmental justice.” Momentum in these areas continues to build, she explained, including recent investments with Volkswagen Settlement funding toward increasing the number of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in New Jersey, and initiatives that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all areas of the state, focusing on those most impacted by climate change and sea level rise.

BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso described the move as “a vital step toward ensuring a healthier environment for our children and mitigating the impacts of climate change … (and) ensuring that low- and moderate-income and environmental justice communities are able to benefit from affordable clean energy.”

In June, the DEP adopted the Global Warming Solutions Fund rule to establish the framework for how the three agencies will spend proceeds from RGGI’s carbon dioxide allowance auctions. Murphy’s Executive Order No. 7, which he issued in his first month in office, emphasizes projects benefiting environmental justice communities and directs the state to rejoin RGGI and develop a program implementing solutions that benefit communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.

The document is designed to:

• Inform the public of the various regulatory and legislative requirements the three agencies must follow when distributing RGGI proceeds;

• Provide insight into state funding priorities, e.g. access to funding and ensuring meaningful benefits reach the communities most affected by pollution and climate change, and spurring electrification of various transportation modes in the state; and

• Offer comprehensive examples of initiatives that could be funded with RGGI proceeds.

To learn more about RGGI, visit rggi.org. Follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP. Follow the BPU on Twitter @NJBPU. Follow the EDA on Twitter @NewJerseyEDA.  —V.F.

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