GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The state will restrict building in flood prone areas as it works to become a a 100 percent clean energy state by 2050, in response to climate change and rising sea levels.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state’s new Energy Master Plan at Stockton University on Monday, and signed an executive order to change the way the state regulates energy and construction.
Clean energy will include nuclear power, according to state spokespeople who conducted a technical call for the media before the governor’s news conference.
“We must heed the warnings science is giving us,” Murphy said of Rutgers University studies finding that sea level could rise as much as 1 foot by 2030, 2 feet by 2050 and 6 feet by 2100.
Sea level rise is already “eroding the shore economy,” Murphy said, with frequent flooding and damage to beaches. Further sea level rise is inevitable up to 2050, because of carbon already in the atmosphere. But changes made in emissions of greenhouse gases could lessen sea level rise in the second half of the century, he said.
“It’s hard for future generations to create Jersey Shore memories if the Jersey Shore itself becomes no more than a memory,” Murphy said.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Tom Gilbert called the plan a “game changer — a new direction from the previous administration that puts the state on exactly the right path we need to be on ... (moving) away from fossil fuels and towards building a clean energy future.”
Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, praised the tighter building rules.
“Gov. Phil Murphy ... is putting New Jersey at the forefront of climate action by requiring developers to consider their environmental impact before they build,” Potosnak said.
But New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said the plan still consider some types of incineration and bio-gas as clean energy.
Tittel also said it will take so long for the regulations to be finalized, many fossil fuel projects currently in the planning stages may be built before the plans regulations are done.
PACT stands for Protect Against Climate Threats, and it will include drastically cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses and other climate pollutants, and transform land use and planning policies to adapt the state to threats from sea-level rise, extreme weather and chronic flooding.
Murphy said it’s important to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, for environmental and health reasons.
He said asthma rates are much higher in cities like Newark and Atlantic City, hitting minority communities hardest.
“In Atlantic County, the African American population is only 14 percent, but (that) population represents 42% of asthma-related emergency room visits,” Murphy said. “We’ve been too slow to change our ways.”
Murphy did not talk about the cost of the plan, and took no questions after his talk.
Patty Cronheim of Rethink Energy NJ said Rutgers is working on a report on costs.
But Murphy did say he believes it will help the economy.
“We are going to make New Jersey a place that proves you can grow the economy and create good jobs and wages — with overwhelmingly union jobs,” he said, while moving to a clean energy future.
New Jersey Business and Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor said costs are an issue.
“While the ambitious goals set forth in today’s announcement are laudable, we remain very concerned by the overall cost impacts to ratepayers and businesses in the execution of this plan — particularly as there has yet to be a ratepayer impact study,” Cantor said.
“Additionally, we question the feasibility and reliability of a rushed abandonment of the use of natural gas, an energy source that heats more than 75% of New Jersey’s homes and businesses, and generates more than 50% of our electricity,” Cantor said.
There will be stakeholder meetings during the regulatory development period, state spokespeople said.
Murphy said New Jersey is the first state to embark on such a large scale energy plan and rulemaking process.