Officials urge Murphy to join Transportation and Climate Initiative

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — More than 100 elected officials from New Jersey have signed a letter urging Gov. Phil Murphy to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative.

In order to mitigate the harms of a warming climate, New Jersey has taken major steps to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, acknowledging that it’s the source of 42 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions. The state’s plan involves the deployment of electric cars, buses and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the charging infrastructure needed to fuel them. Last July, New Jersey joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia to amplify its commitment to clean transportation by accelerating bus and truck electrification, but had to cut back the effort because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Job losses and state expenditures went up, while tax revenue went down, creating a budget crunch. Naturally, vital public health services, economic assistance programs and other essential programs needed the funding first. New Jersey’s goal of an 80-percent carbon emission reduction by 2050, for the health and well-being of all citizens, got more challenging. That’s one way the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a consortium of 12 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and the District of Columbia, could help. Not only would the program likely reduce pollution while improving public health, it would bring revenue to New Jersey communities struggling to recover from the pandemic.

According to the results of a poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy, 79 percent of voters support New Jersey joining TCI.

“It’s not surprising that citizens across the state support this common-sense program. TCI is a unique opportunity to wean our way off of fossil fuels while growing jobs. Making our cities better places to live and work will create more vibrant, healthier local economies and inclusive communities,” said Essex County Freeholder President Brendan Gill, co-chairperson of Elected Officials to Protect America – New Jersey Leadership Council.

In addition to Gill, signers of the letter to Murphy include East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks, Maplewood Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis, Glen Ridge Councilman Paul Lisovicz, Glen Ridge Councilwoman Ann Marie Morrow, Bloomfield Councilman Richard Rockwell, Bloomfield Councilwoman Sarah Cruz, Orange Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten, Orange Councilwoman Tency Eason, East Orange Councilman Casim Gomez, Irvington Councilwoman Charnette Frederic, Bloomfield Councilman Nicholas Joanow, Maplewood Councilman Victor DeLuca, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, South Orange Trustee Walter Clarke and South Orange Trustee Steve Schnall.

“We, the undersigned elected officials from across New Jersey, are concerned about the health, prosperity and resiliency of the communities we represent in the wake of the global pandemic and economic crisis,” the letter reads. “We urge you to continue New Jersey’s participation in the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative to bring needed investment dollars for sustainable infrastructure and reduce pollution in our communities; we hope New Jersey will strongly advocate for equity commitments from the other states to make the regional policy as strong as possible, and that you will sign the final MOU when it is released later this year.

“Strengthening health, prosperity, and resiliency in communities of color and economically marginalized communities must be central to any transportation investment program,” the letter continues. “We urge you to support a series of complementary policies to ensure that environmental justice principles are included in the implementation of TCI, including increased air monitoring in high-traffic areas, establishing an oversight committee of community leaders from frontline communities, and ensuring equitable investments that benefit all New Jerseyans. The need for bold, science-based action to address the climate emergency has never been clearer.”