Sierra Club Criticizes Environmental Spending Cuts

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STATE—Gov. Chris Christie’s 2011 budget proposal takes aim at the environment and cuts many important programs designed to reduce greenhouse gases, protect the environment, and create green jobs, according to the Sierra Club.

“Governor Christie’s budget, just like his executive orders, will dismantle many key environmental programs in New Jersey. Not only will his budget hurt the environment, it will cost us green jobs,” NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

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Christie has announced plans to cut money for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and $68 million in programs funded by RGGI will be eliminated. RGGI, a compact with multiple states in the Northeast, was established to create programs that reduce the greenhouse gas footprint and create jobs. The Sierra Club charges that by slashing this fund, the governor isn’t just hurting the environment, he’s robbing money for green jobs.

The budget slashes the Clean Energy Fund by a total of $52 million – $42 million in direct cuts and $10 million in diversions. These cuts will significantly reduce the amount of money available to reimburse residents for solar installations and high efficiency appliances, like furnaces and air conditioners, according to the Sierra Club. These cuts to the Clean Energy Fund are on top of the $158 took from the fund in FY 2010.

“When it comes to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gases, this budget shows the governor is full of hot air,” Tittel said. “He keeps taking money away from green jobs and clean energy programs, undermining the environment and costing us jobs as well.”

The governor’s budget would also eliminate the Retail Margin Fund. Just $13.9 million was left in the Retail Margin Fund after a $128 million cut in the FY 2010 budget. The Retail Margin Fund helps businesses to build cogeneration and combined heat and power sources. It helps to build power plants, heat buildings, and produce electricity from natural gas.

The governor also announced he will slash DEP funding to historic lows. The DEP’s operating budget will be cut by $15 million, from $215 million down to $200 million. In just two years, DEP funding has been slashed by about a third – from $277 million down to $200 million. At least $40 million from the DEP budget that comes from fees, fines, and grants will be diverted to the General Fund.

“DEP is at its lowest level of funding in more than 25 years,” Tittel said. “There won’t be enough people at DEP to issue the permits required to protect public health and the environment and ensure that our economy gets going.”

The governor plans to take $15 million from the constitutionally-dedicated CBT (Corporate Business Tax), which traditionally goes to environmental programs that create jobs, like fixing parks or helping towns to do watershed planning to meet stormwater rules, according to the Sierra Club. CBT monies also go to retrofit diesel school buses, helping to reduce asthma in children.

This budget reduces funding for the Highlands from $12 million to $4.4 million and cuts direct aid for municipalities in the Highlands and Pinelands by $7.6 million. Payment in lieu of taxes, which helps municipalities make up for loss tax revenue when buying open space, will be slashed from $10 million to $6.5 million.

The 2011 budget also calls for the elimination of the Office of Climate Change, taking direct aim at clean energy programs and efforts to fight climate change.


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