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Gov. Phil Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy, and Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Tom Malinowski and Frank Pallone, Jr. greet President Joe Biden after Marine One landed in Somerset County on September 7, 2021. (Photo: Office of the Governor).

Climate coalition sues Department of Environmental Protection for rejecting petition

By Joey Fox, January 20 2022 10:44 am

The climate-focused coalition Empower NJ today announced that they are suing the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after the DEP rejected a petition last month demanding the department adopt rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2006 levels by 2030 (a goal known as 50×30).

After Hurricane Ida slammed the state last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order in support of 50×30, saying that “now is the time for bold action.” That order brought him in line with the July petition filed by Empower NJ, a coalition of more than 100 groups that includes the New Jersey Sierra Club, NJ Citizen Action, and the state affiliate of the Green Party.

But his administration’s DEP, citing a separate goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 and noting that any work to halt climate change would have to reach beyond the DEP’s own rules and regulations, rejected the petition.

“Given the need for such a comprehensive and coordinated approach, no single state agency or any one regulatory reform or set of regulatory reforms by the department can itself bring about the structural, economic, and societal changes necessary to reduce the worsening effects of climate change,” the department wrote. “For these reasons … the department has denied the petition.”

Noting the seeming disconnect between Murphy’s executive order and the DEP, Empower NJ’s appeal to the state Appellate Division calls the DEP’s rejection a “dereliction of duty.”

“There are only two ways to look at DEP’s outright denial of our petition: DEP has gone rogue or this administration is uninterested in pursuing its own stated policies and state law,” John Reichman said on behalf of Empower NJ. “If the governor’s recent State of the State address is any indication, where climate change was virtually ignored, the latter appears to be the case. Anything less than 50×30 would be too little and too late, so we’re taking DEP to court.”

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