GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CN) – New Jersey will become the first in the country to require construction companies and home builders to study how their projects affect climate change.
“No other state has as comprehensive a test” on how to deal with climate change, said Governor Phil Murphy, signing an executive order Monday that requires new regulations in the next two years.
As part of the new plan, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection must draft new regulations and revise existing ones to reduce carbon dioxide below 80% of 2006 levels by 2050.
Notably, the new regulations will also require builders to show they’ve taken into account sea-level rise before they can get permits. Builders unable to show they’ve taken into account how their project will affect climate change — with a particular emphasis on rising sea levels — would either have to amend their pitches or risk not receiving state permits to build.
The new regulations are expected by 2022.
Murphy touted the state’s past work on climate change, noting the growth in offshore wind farms and 52,000 clean-energy jobs. “I guarantee in 10 years every American state will have to face up and do what we’re doing,” he said.
Rutgers University researchers reported just weeks earlier that New Jersey had experienced its 10th warmest year on record in 2019. The hottest year on record for the state was in 2012, while 18 out of the 20 hottest years were all since 1990.
That report and others have painted a bleak picture of rising sea levels due to climate change, with some estimates pegging sea levels to rise as much as 2 feet by 2050 and 6 feet by 2100. According to the Rutgers report, New Jersey has fared worse than other areas in terms of sea-level rise, growing at nearly three times the global average.
Murphy unveiled the new plan at Stockton University, about an hour north of Wildwood, where President Trump is scheduled to hold a massive rally on Tuesday. During his speech, Murphy took aim at energy and environmental regulators in Washington, saying the Trump administration has foolishly worked to “prop up the dying coal industry” and open up oil drilling on protected lands, all while indiscriminately rolling back environmental regulations.
“Those voices are not just ignorant of both science and reality, they are pushing a lie that you can have either a vibrant and growing economy, or a cleaner future, but you can’t have both,” Murphy told the crowd.
Many environmental groups lauded the executive order. Richard Lawton, executive director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council, called the plan an “indispensable roadmap” to a clean economy in the state.
“By including all social, environmental, and economic impacts, this plan is the key to skillfully addressing the growing risk of climate change, and actualizing the upside opportunity of transitioning to a clean energy future,” he said in a statement.
Other environmental activists were more guarded and urged for more to be done. “New Jersey and the planet are in the middle of a climate emergency and the [plan] still does not have emergency action or deliverables,” New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said. “The [plan] still defines clean energy to include incinerators, natural gas, biogas and others. It does not call for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects or a 45% reduction of emissions by 2030, and will not get the state to zero carbon by 2050.”