DeLuca and various EC towns win Sustainable Jersey awards

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EWING, NJ — On Nov. 19, Sustainable Jersey announced the recipients of the 2019 Sustainable Jersey municipal awards at the annual Sustainable Jersey luncheon held during the New Jersey League of Municipality Conference in Atlantic City.

Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca received the Mayor Art Ondish Leadership Award, and 2019 Collaboration Award was given to Glen Ridge, Maplewood, Montclair, South Orange and Verona.

“The need for sustainability action has never been more urgent as New Jersey tops the list as one of the fastest-warming states in the nation. The municipalities that are receiving Sustainable Jersey’s highest recognition awards have set a new bar and aspirational example for other communities to meet as they pursue sustainability goals,” said Randall Solomon, executive director of Sustainable Jersey. “As we mark Sustainable Jersey’s 10th anniversary, I’d like to congratulate the award winners for their efforts and dedication to their communities. Thank you for innovating and growing with Sustainable Jersey!”

The Ondish Leadership Award recognizes the leader of a model Sustainable Jersey town for providing the town’s green team with ideas, policy support and the necessary resources to achieve significant success toward sustainability at the local level and to contribute to the statewide movement. 

DeLuca has served 20 years in office and 14 years as mayor. Maplewood has been certified with Sustainable Jersey since 2009 and has maintained certification at the silver level since 2013. DeLuca serves on the Sustainable Jersey Certifications Committee, which vets all Sustainable Jersey actions and program changes, and he is one of 12 N.J. mayors who publicly pledged to collaborate with Sustainable Jersey and make a significant effort to achieve Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy. Maplewood signed the Paris Climate Agreement and changed local laws to facilitate the installation of residential solar energy systems. The town set up an electric vehicle charging station for the public and has banned single-use plastic shopping bags. Maplewood is the lead municipality for the Sustainable Essex Alliance Energy Procurement Cooperative, a multimunicipal cooperative that purchased greener and cheaper electricity and promotes energy efficiency for residents.

“I knew and worked with Mayor Art Ondish for many years and am honored to receive this year’s Ondish Leadership Award,” DeLuca said. “I believe sustainability starts at the local level and then we need to take those local concerns and transform them into statewide and national movements for change. As elected officials we need to be bold leaders and also encourage and support the activism of our constituents. I share the Ondish Award with the local activists in Maplewood who I proudly work with side-by-side to make our community and the world more sustainable now and for generations to come.”

The Collaboration Award, which went to Glen Ridge, Maplewood, Montclair, South Orange and Verona, recognizes municipal green teams that have advanced sustainability by building strong partnerships. In 2017, the Sustainable Essex Alliance, decided to investigate energy aggregation as a possible project for the hub. By using the combined purchasing power of the residents, municipalities can often negotiate increased renewable content and better pricing for their residents. The Sustainable Essex Alliance Cooperative was formed. Participating towns in the first energy contract for the project include Maplewood as the lead agent, Glen Ridge, Montclair, South Orange and Verona. The purpose of doing the project as a multitown group was to maximize the volume pricing discount for renewable energy. The participating townships’ electrical supply now includes renewable content 20 percent above what is required by the state. Additionally, the Sustainable Essex Alliance Project has an energy efficiency program included as part of the project that will benefit residents in all of the participating townships.

“The Sustainable Essex Alliance is transformational with more than 30,000 families in five towns now receiving cleaner and cheaper electricity,” DeLuca said. “This is an example of how individual New Jersey municipalities can build a collaboration to benefit their residents, advance good public policy and boost the market for clean energy. And the alliance’s energy efficiency program will help the families further reduce their electric use and bills. I want to thank the citizen groups in each of the five towns who pushed and prodded their elected officials to get on board, truly a major win for all involved.”

“I’m extremely proud of our green team not just for being a part of the group that won the 2019 Collaboration Award but because this cross-border collaboration leverages purchasing power in service of the public,” South Orange President Sheena Collum said. “The result of these five towns joining together is millions of dollars in energy savings across all of our communities and each household is a little bit greener, too.”

“Glen Ridge is thrilled to join with our fellow municipalities to accept this award,” Glen Ridge Mayor Stuart Patrick said. “Together, we are demonstrating that going green can also result in savings for our residents. I would like to thank our green team and municipal staff for their leadership on not only this project, but for also achieving silver certification with Sustainable Jersey this year.”

“Montclair residents have been pleased to participate in the Sustainable Essex Alliance’s cooperative purchasing program, which increased our supply of renewable electricity while saving our citizens some money by lowering our rate,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said. “Cleaner energy choices and smart savings: perfect together!”