Cleantech Pushes Back Against Christie Energy Plan
Clean energy business leaders, local environmentalists and New Jersey residents came together this month to ask Republican Gov. Chris Christie to maintain the clean energy goals set by the previous administration, pointing to the successes New Jersey has had to date meeting those goals and stimulating green jobs.
Because of New Jersey’s clean energy policy and incentives, the state has jumped to the top in terms of solar installations.
The 2011 Energy Master Plan, however, drafted by the Christie Administration, reduces the state’s renewable energy goal for 2021 from 30% to 22.5% and puts the energy efficiency goal under review.
Chritie’s plan prioritizes natural gas over renewables. It proposes classifying natural gas as "clean energy" to meet the state’s renewable energy goals. And it proposes three new natural gas plants and expansion of pipelines.
The cleantech industry and environmental community oppose Christie’s plan.
Cleantech industry representatives point to the revenue generated by growing the industry, especially when job creation has ground to a halt in many other industries. Residents are also saving money on their utility bills thanks to advances in clean energy and energy efficiency investments.
"We can rebuild our economy through energy saving measures and renewable energy. With every clean energy project we are saving hundreds of dollars per month off utility costs," says Xavier Walter, President of The Home Energy Team. "That gives homeowners and businesses more money to spend in the marketplace. The funds from these projects go into the pockets of employees, supply houses, and domestically manufactured products."
Gov. Christie says the 30% renewable energy target is unachievable.
The Board of Public Utilities is expected to vote on Christie’s plan this fall, and could choose to revise it based on public input.
In May, Christie pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon trading system, to the great disappointment of the cleantech community.
Why the South Doesn’t Embrace Renewables
The Southeast region of the US lags far behind the rest of the country in implementing renewable energy standards (RES).
Only 11 states have yet to implement such standards, and eight of them are in the South — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, reports Associated Press.
Those states happen to be Republican strongholds, where conservatives oppose regulations for fear they could harm the profits of fossil fuel companies.
Another reason for disinterest in renewables is that many of the South’s utilties have legal monopolies, granted as an incentive for delivering power to rural areas.
Without strong state policies and incentives, utilities have little financial incentive to sell renewable electricity generated by someone else. They have largely been unwilling to invest in their own renewable generation, prefering to stick with familiar fossil fuels.
Southern utilties have preserved the status quo through massive lobbying campaigns to the tune of $74 million just on the federal level, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Residents are also lulled into inertia because they enjoy some of the nation’s lowest power bills.
New EPA regulations that require plant modernization or the phase-out of outdated coal plants would make renewable energy advantageous, but Republicans are pushing back hard against them.
Instead, southern utilities want to build new fossil fuel and nuclear plants.
The business case for renewable energy is continually improving, however, and the South will eventually follow the rest of the country – as it has always done.
Illinois Expands E-Waste Ban
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that extends the state’s landfill ban on electronics to included keyboards, portable music devices, scanners, video game consoles and other items. The old law only included computer monitors, televisions and printers.
The overhaul of Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act also increases recycling goals for state manufacturers, and establishes stronger penalties for those who fail to comply.
In 2012, manufacturers will be required to recycle 40% of the products they sold in 2010, and they will be required to maintain consumer education programs on proper disposal of electronic products.
"This law will keep reusable materials from filling our landfills, and it will help us put people to work giving those materials new uses," says Quinn in a statement.
EPA Launches Green America’s Capitals
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new plans to work with the capital cities of Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska and the District of Columbia on its Greening America’s Capitals project.
The project aims to help cities create neighborhoods that
stimulate economic development, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce infrastructure and energy costs.
EPA will provide design assistance from private-sector experts to design neighborhoods with multiple social, economic, environmental, and public health benefits.
Montgomery, Alabama will receive assistance to redesign a one-mile segment of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail to improve the streetscape for walking and biking. It will also get help to manage storm water and create better connections between neighborhoods for pedestrians in an area crisscrossed by major highway overpasses.
Phoenix, Arizona will receive assistance to revitalize Lower Grand Avenue, a key commercial strip that could become an area of economic growth by reusing historic buildings for a new mix of uses.
Washington, DC will receive assistance to make three intersections at the Anacostia Metro Station safer and more effective for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles. The project will also develop design options for surrounding streets and open spaces to improve the area for pedestrians and increase connections to nearby homes and stores.
Jackson, Mississippi will receive assistance to redesign a segment of downtown Congress Street, which runs past the Mississippi State Capitol and Jackson City Hall. Assistance will include retrofitting the street and adjacent public spaces with green infrastructure to manage storm water, improve pedestrian access and safety, and encourage economic development.
Lincoln, Nebraska will get help in creating a green infrastructure pilot project in the South Capitol neighborhood, a residential area two blocks from the state capitol. Improved streetscape design will better manage storm water while supporting more walking, biking, and transit options.