For Immediate Release
Governor Phil Murphy announced an executive order today that will allow for the collection and submission of electronic signatures on local and county initiative and referendum petitions during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The order is essential for protecting the democratic rights of New Jersey residents, and comes after Food & Water Watch and NJ Applelseed submitted a letter to the administration urging the governor to enact such a rule.
In response, Food & Water Watch New Jersey state director Matt Smith released the following statement:
“Today’s order is a huge win for democracy in New Jersey. The ability to petition local governments is a unique and powerful tool, and Governor Murphy has rightly decided that this power must be protected during the COVID-19 crisis. Food & Water Watch has been working with local residents on petition initiatives to create Community Energy Aggregation programs in 15 towns and cities across the state this year. Our ordinance transitions towns and cities off of polluting fossil fuels and onto 100% clean energy sources by 2030. The Coronavirus pandemic brings new urgency to the work of cleaning up air pollution from dirty energy. With the American Lung Association rating much of New Jersey’s air an ‘F’ for dangerous ozone pollution, and the worlds’ scientists telling us we have less than a decade to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, community energy aggregation is a powerful tool in the race for a safe and healthy climate future.”
In nearly half of New Jersey municipalities, citizens are empowered to engage in direct democracy via petition initiative. When at least 10% of voters sign onto a petition in support of a local policy, municipal councils can either vote to approve the citizen-backed ordinance, or put the policy on the ballot as a question for local voters to decide.
Food & Water Watch has been working with residents in several cities and towns this year, circulating initiative petitions to create community energy aggregation programs. If enacted, these programs would give residents and businesses access to clean, renewable sources of electricity like solar and wind power at discounted rates.
The ordinance championed by Food & Water Watch authorizes municipalities to create community energy aggregation programs to transition their residents and businesses to 100 percent clean renewable sources of electricity by 2030. Thanks to the discounts afforded by bulk purchasing, communities with energy aggregation programs aren’t just going green, they’re also saving residents money on their monthly utility bills.
Food & Water Watch has organized successful community energy aggregation campaigns in New Brunswick and Piscataway, where the initiative was voted down by the town council before winning at the ballot with overwhelming support.
This year, Food & Water Watch is working in 15 municipalities to enact 100% renewable energy aggregation programs including Edison, East Brunswick, Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Ridgewood, Hoboken, North Brunswick, South Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Cherry Hill, Mt. Laurel, Burlington Township and Collingswood.