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Gov. Murphy’s 5th State of State Address - Is Climate Change still an emergency?


Trenton (January 10, 2023)-- Today, Governor Phil Murphy delivered his State of the State address at the New Jersey State House. On the environmental side, Murphy’s speech mentioned the Garden State Greenway, the Portal North Bridge, NJ Transit rail line projects, new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, a Boardwalk Fund, and Offshore Wind. The Governor mentioned that New Jersey was a leader several times in new and emerging technologies, online gaming, financial services, and more. 


“Governor Murphy’s 5th State of the State Address included some of his environmental accomplishments, such as offshore wind, NJ Transit, and purchasing land for the Garden State Greenway. These issues are important, however the State still falls short when it comes to reliable public transportation, climate resiliency, a fast electric transition of our transportation sector and effective bear management,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club. 


In his speech, Governor Murphy stated, “that New Jersey has the final purchase of the land that will become the Garden State Greenway – the conversion of nine miles of abandoned railroad trackbed from Montclair to Jersey City into a linear park that will rival any other of its kind, dwarfing Manhattan’s High Line. In a state as small and dense as ours, this project exemplifies our belief that we can take previously underutilized or overlooked properties and turn them into points of civic pride to better our communities and environment. And it exemplifies our commitment to environmental justice and to undoing the mistakes of the past which pushed undue burdens on underserved communities – so often communities of color.”


“Increasing park land in environmental justice areas is critically important for equity, accessibility, cleaner air, reducing heat, mental health and many other benefits, however we still have not seen the adoption let alone the implementation of the Environmental Justice law through its rule. Because of this, harmful and polluting facilities like Covanta Camden and PVSC are continuing to do business and proposing further pollution in areas that already receive a disproportionate amount of it,” said Ramos-Busot. “New Jersey needs to do better when it comes to protecting the health and safety of residents from these harmful facilities.”


Murphy mentioned modernizing our infrastructure in his speech today. He stated, “We finally broke ground on the new Portal North Bridge. And I was tremendously honored to have President Biden by my side when we ceremonially did so… And numerous projects along NJ TRANSIT’s rail lines are moving forward – projects that will improve the customer experience, improve reliability, and improve on-time performance.”


“Governor Murphy mentioned a new Portal North Bridge but failed to mention the NJ Turnpike $10 billion widening. This widening will mean more cars, more traffic, more air pollution in EJ communities, and more climate impacts. Instead of paying billions of dollars for a widening that will not solve our traffic problems, but create bigger pollution ones, New Jersey should invest that money in NJ Transit and public transportation,” said Ramos-Busot. 


A new Boardwalk Fund that will partner with our Shore towns and counties to make vital upgrades was also mentioned in Governor Murphy’s speech. He stated, “Our boardwalks are more than just places for recreation and exercise. They are more than just the space that connects a parking area to the beach. They are wooden Main Streets which, in so many ways, define their communities and support their economies as much as the sand and surf.”


“Investing and supporting Jersey Shore towns is a step in the right direction, however it needs to be done sustainably and fairly. Calling boardwalks wooden main streets sounds like a slippery slope to new development in flood prone areas. Investing in the Jersey Shore doesn’t mean development that blocks public beach access, spending millions of taxpayer money on beach replenishment, or creating another Long Branch,” said Ramos- Busot. “In order to invest and support boardwalk towns along the shore, we need to first protect them from increasing sea level rise, storm surges, and stronger storms. Things like living shorelines and dune restoration, will help protect residents, businesses, and the wooden boardwalk from climate impacts for the long term. More importantly, we need to continue to protect public access to our beautiful beaches and shoreline.”


The Murphy Administration is moving forward with positive regulations including the Inland Flood Protection Rule, NJ's New Low NOx Omnibus Rule, Diesel Vehicle Inspection Tests and Procedures and Ground Level Ozone State Implementation Plan Revision, the New Jersey Energy Storage Incentive Program (“NJ SIP”) Straw Proposal (“Straw”). On the other hand, in November of 2022, Governor Murphy turned back on his promise to end the bear hunt by having an emergency hunt and proposing to have a bear hunt for the next 7 years. 


“The Murphy Administration is working on some positive regulatory steps to prevent inland flooding, reduce harmful NOx emissions from our transportation sector, and prepare the state with the infrastructure it needs for electric vehicles. These actions are crucial, however with the increasing climate impacts and the urgency, we need Governor Murphy to be stronger in his second term when it comes to the environment,” said Anjuli Ramos- Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club.