Inside the Fight for Truly “Squeaky Clean” Energy in New Jersey

Published Apr 26, 2024


Climate and Energy

We're fighting with folks across New Jersey to shut down handouts for dirty energy companies’ climate scams and win real clean energy for the Garden State.

We're fighting with folks across New Jersey to shut down handouts for dirty energy companies’ climate scams and win real clean energy for the Garden State.

For as long as he has been New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy has pledged his support for 100% clean energy. But he has never done enough to actually make it a reality. 

That has begun to change over the past few months. Democratic lawmakers in the state are finally starting to get serious about putting forward a plan to match the governor’s rhetoric. However, that plan has been marred by measures that prop up dirty energy masquerading as climate “fixes.”

There’s no doubt that we desperately need bold policies to fight climate change. Many of these policies also provide other urgently needed benefits, like cleaning up air pollution, improving public health, and creating long-term green jobs.

In order to achieve these critical goals, we need to make sure that the version of “clean energy” that political leaders are talking about is actually clean. In the legislature, that means working to strengthen one bill while stopping two others. 

Cleaning Up New Jersey’s Electric Grid — For Real

The main legislation in question (S237/A1480) would require that 100% of retail electricity sales in New Jersey come from “clean” sources by 2035. Lawmakers spent many months gathering input from labor unions, business groups, and environmentalists to build support. 

But there were a few sticking points: namely, loopholes that support expensive distractions like blending hydrogen in the conventional gas systems and relying on ineffective, so-called “carbon capture” technology. These loopholes would be a giveaway to dirty energy companies while doing nothing to clean up New Jersey’s grid.

The bill would also lock in the dirty status quo that classifies trash incineration as a form of “clean energy.” We know it’s anything but. It creates more climate and air pollution than coal and emits dangerous pollutants like lead and mercury. 

These harmful impacts disproportionately fall on communities that are already overburdened with pollution (often because of racist and discriminatory policies). That includes Newark, where a trash incinerator burns almost 90% of all the city’s plastic trash and sends plumes of toxic smoke into neighboring communities. 

Seven speakers stand on stone steps outside of the New Jersey Capitol Building, holding a banner reading: "100% REAL CLEAN ENERGY FOR NJ. NO DIRTY ENERGY SUBSIDIES. YES ZERO-EMISSIONS SOLUTIONS."
In November 2023, Food & Water New Jersey joined allies for a rally and lobby day at the State Capitol in Trenton.

Mobilizing People Power to Clean Up This Bill

Our Food & Water New Jersey team had to find a way to thread the needle — to support the stronger elements of the bill while working to improve or eliminate the weak parts. And we had to start without even having a draft of the bill language. 

We launched a campaign in October with our statewide EMPOWER NJ coalition to push for the strongest possible bill. The campaign has made more than 26,000 calls to New Jerseyans to spread the word and mobilized 1,500 calls to state lawmakers. 

Weeks after the launch, we held a big rally and lobby day at the State Capitol on the day the bill was being heard in a Senate committee. The rally united many of the largest environmental groups in the state with environmental justice organizations and frontline community members. We all shouted with one voice: We need real clean energy legislation that makes New Jersey a national leader in the fight for clean air and a safe climate future!

The Clean Energy Standard bill didn’t pass last session, but we knew it would be back when legislators returned to Trenton this year. And thanks to our movement’s organizing, we’re already making progress. 

Last month, lawmakers amended the bill with critical clean air and environmental justice protections to get closer to our vision. This version was a major improvement over the first draft and passed out of committee.

Most notably, the revised standards limited both greenhouse gas emissions and dirty co-pollutants that threaten our health, like particulate matter and lead. This is the first bill in the nation to do so, and passing it would stop many bad projects from getting off the ground. 

Protecting New Jerseyans’ Wallets from the Dirty Gas Ripoff

While we started fighting to clean up the Clean Energy Standard, we faced another bill that we dubbed the Dirty Gas Ripoff. It would have delivered huge new giveaways to utilities and fossil fuel companies for more greenwashed dirty energy. 

To make matters worse, the bill would have had New Jersey families paying for this through our electric bills. It would allow gas providers to jack up rates to pay for costly investments in so-called “renewable” natural gas — which is methane derived from factory farm manure or wastewater facilities — or hydrogen blending with methane.

These expensive, dangerous scams would still create dangerous pollutants when burned. They would also do nothing to reduce the climate-wrecking methane that leaks from pipelines or other gas infrastructure. Making New Jerseyans pay for it would add insult to injury. 

Last year, when it finally came up before an Assembly committee, we packed the room with supporters. The bill was pulled from the scheduled vote, effectively halting this disastrous legislation. 

In the current legislative session, lawmakers have reintroduced the Dirty Gas Ripoff. Once again, we’re pushing to shut it down, alongside more bills promoting dirty gas and other false climate solutions. That includes a new “Low” Carbon Fuel Standard that would subsidize these fuels through carbon credit trading schemes and price increases for consumers.

Tell your reps: Stop the unaffordable dirty gas bill and support a stronger Clean Energy Standard instead!

Together, We Can Fight Dirty Energy and Pollution in New Jersey

Nationwide, dirty industries are marketing new projects as “sustainable” solutions and winning massive subsidies and support from lawmakers. But we know many of these, from hydrogen blending to “biogas,” would actually further pollute our communities and climate. Without action, they will derail the green transition we need to defend our health and environment — and they’ll do it on our dime.

By working strategically with a broad coalition of allies, Food & Water New Jersey made important progress toward a clean(er) energy bill, and we stopped an awful bill before it could even get started. This is a testament to the climate, community, and environmental justice activists who spent months testifying, lobbying, and rallying for clean air and a livable future. They heard us loud and clear in Trenton — and our movement is only getting stronger.

In the current legislative session, we know that continued organizing and shows of people power can stop bad bills in their tracks. Together, we can pass real clean energy legislation. With our allies and supporters like you, we’re determined to stop polluting projects and move New Jersey to a true clean energy future.

Dozens of activists gather in a large room with brown walls and grey carpet, holding signs that way "Stop the pipeline," "100% real clean energy for NJ!" "Off fossil fuels," and more.
Food & Water Watch and our allies gather for the inaugural NJ Climate Action Gathering in April 2024.

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