Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders Respond to Threats of Climate Change
“The State’s ability to reduce . . . climate change impacts will depend on the collective effort . . . of our political and community leaders, businesses, industries, and government entities.” reads Executive Order 100 of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
In 2019 Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 89, which aims to mitigate the effects of climate change. In January he signed Executive Order 100, to mitigate its causes and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Executive Order 89: Climate Change Resilience
This order, signed last October on the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, is designed to help New Jersey plan for the risks posed by flooding, sea-level rise, temperature rise, forest fires, and other climate catastrophes. The directive establishes a Chief Resilience Officer to develop and lead a Statewide Climate Change Resilience Strategy (SCCRS) and Interagency Council on Climate Resilience (ICCR).
NJDEP Assistant Commissioner David Rosenblatt was appointed as the Program’s Chief Resilience Officer. The SCCRS will play a role in determining grant funding, information, and other assistance available to state agencies, counties, and municipalities on efforts to protect against the effects of climate change – especially those affecting infrastructure, natural resources, and the economy. A section of the SCCRS called the Coastal Resilience Plan will emphasize these measures as they apply to sea level rise, flooding, and extreme weather in NJ coastal communities.
The ICCR comprising 16 state agencies will ensure that the SCCRS is coordinated with input from all factions of the New Jersey State government.
Executive Order 100: Protecting Against Climate Threats
While EO-89 seeks to shore up New Jersey’s communities against climate hazards, it does not address the causes of climate change. As such, EO-100 was designed to guide the reduction of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The order mandates the establishment of Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT) regulations. They will be designed to monitor and report on greenhouse gas emissions, govern emission reduction, and tie climate considerations to a range of permits, including those for land-use, site remediation, and air and water quality.
Implications for Developers and Businesses
These new rules will apply to state-funded projects and private ventures such as new apartment complexes, schools near the shore, or energy plants that produce carbon emissions. Developers will have to adhere to stricter carbon emissions standards in order to obtain grants and building permits.
The state will work with industry and stakeholders to increase job training, education, and awareness about net zero-carbon technologies. They’ll work to connect people to mass transit and extend bike and scooter sharing to get cars off the road and reduce auto emissions.
The backdrop to these executive orders includes both the Murphy administration’s tendency toward environmental progress and New Jersey’s greater history of environmental legislation.
In 1961, the Green Acres Program was started to protect the state’s natural resources and has since created hundreds of public parks and outdoor recreation spaces. Through the Blue Acres Program, the state buys properties along NJ waterways that are damaged, or at risk of damage, by flooding to protect land that is immediately inland of those properties. In 2007, the Global Warming Response Act set limits to reduce New Jersey’s greenhouse gasses to 1990 levels by 2020 and to be 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. New Jersey has exceeded its 2020 goal, according to NJDEP data.
In more current history, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 8 commissioned the NJ Energy Master Plan to guide the state to zero emissions by 2050, a more ambitious goal than the one set by the Global Warming Response Act. Murphy also recently opposed the construction of a natural gas power plant in the Meadowlands, which would emit an estimated 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year.
The rationale for Executive Orders 89 & 100
New Jersey is already one of the most energy-efficient states per capita, yet with a large and dense population, it is the 16th-highest polluter of air emissions overall. As¬ a coastal state it is more vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change. A recent Rutgers University study predicts that New Jersey will see twice the global average of sea-level rise this century (1.1 ft by 2030, 2.1 ft by 2050, and 6.3 ft by 2100). NJ coastal homes and buildings at high risk of climate-related damage are valued at $60B. National damage from climate change could average in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of the century.
These Executive Orders are also intended to proactively benefit the state’s budget; citing studies that show that every $1 spent in protecting against climate hazards will save $6 spent reacting to hazards after the fact.
New Jersey’s goal to use 100% clean energy by 2050 is ambitious and will likely be debated and modified many times. It is important for us all to be knowledgeable about issues affecting our businesses and our lives as we push forward in making New Jersey a better and cleaner place to live and work.