Speech On The Environment

 10/7/2005

Thank you Robert Kennedy for being here today. You are among America’s foremost protectors of our precious environment. You have dedicated your life to matching your ideals with action – to fighting for clean water with the Bay Keepers and the NRDC and to citizen access to the shoreline. You fought the world’s worst polluters in court and never pulled your punches. Just ask GE — you get results. You have my admiration, and it is a tremendous honor to have your support.

I see many other people in the room today who deserve praise for devoting their lives to protecting our environment – to keeping our air clean, our water pure, and bulldozers away from our precious open space.

Exploring our natural world as a partner with our devoted environmental advocates has been one of the best perks of my public life. Just last Saturday, I joined some of your colleagues at Island Beach State Park at the Governor’s Fishing Tournament. And I think it was a good sign: the winning fish of the Governor’s Prize wasn’t a red fish. It was a bluefish.

In all seriousness, I am proud to have earned a perfect score on the League of Conservation Voters’ most recent scorecard, and I am grateful to the Sierra Club for their endorsement in my campaign for governor and for cosponsoring this event.

Let me also thank Governor Florio for being with us today – and for his many contributions to our environment. He authored two of the most important pieces of environmental legislation for New Jersey history: the Superfund law and the Federal Pinelands Authorization Legislation.

Finally, I’d like to thank our hosts, IBEW Local 269 and its great leader Chico Marciante. As an indication of just how well the IBEW understands the nexus between protecting the environment and improving life for working families – the very building we’re standing in is powered largely by solar energy.

New Jersey is blessed with one of the most diverse and majestic ecosystems anywhere.

Keeping the environment healthy represents an intergenerational covenant. The Earth is a gift we received from our parents and ancestors, and a debt we owe to our children and their children.

As New Jerseyans, we realized long ago that our environment is one of the keys to our economic success and critical to our quality of life.

We have long been leading the charge nationally to tackle pollution, preserve undeveloped land, and clean up toxic chemicals.

Tragically, the Bush administration and recent congresses have been moving our nation in the wrong direction.

Today, we have a President and a Republican Party who take their cues on the environment from the world’s worst polluters, instead of from the world’s best scientists.

We have a President and a Republican Party who refuse to curb greenhouse gas emissions, negotiate and implement the Kyoto Treaty, or raise minimum fuel efficiency standards for automobiles – even as the threatening consequences of global warming play out on the evening news.

And we have a President and a Republican Party who think no area should be off limits to oil and gas drilling – not the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, not our national parks, not even the Jersey Shore.

How many ice chunks the size of Rhode Island have to fall off the Antarctic Shelf before this Administration understands we have a problem?

It comes down to this: if states don’t work to save our environment, no one will.

Now, it’s up to New Jersey to take on that challenge with a renewed sense of urgency.

If I am elected, I will make certain that New Jersey is a global leader in the effort to defend the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the open space we enjoy.

As a pro-environment businessman, I know we can grow our economy, hold down cost of living for families and business, and protect the Earth at the same time. Practically, it comes down to creative thinking and determination.

Averting the devastating effects of global warming is the fundamental challenge of our time. And it offers the most compelling example of how smart environmental policy can be a catalyst for economic growth.

The clear consensus of scientists is that greenhouse gases have begun to throw the Earth’s natural balance off kilter – heating up our atmosphere and our oceans.

Experts predict that unless we take bold action, weather will become more severe: winters colder, summers hotter, and hurricanes more frequent and more powerful.

For a state with 127 miles of coastline, this is more than an academic debate. If the polar ice cap melts – a prospect that may be only 65 years away – some scientists say that sea levels in New Jersey will rise by nearly two and a half feet – flooding our barrier islands and changing the very shape of New Jersey.

The results would spell disaster for our coastal communities, our coastal habitats, and our shore economy.

Global warming represents the worst symptom of a chronic disease: an addiction to fossil fuel.

But there are other symptoms. Mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other pollutants are released into the air and water – causing cancer, asthma, and other health problems. On hot July and August days when ground-level ozone pollution peaks, asthma attacks spike by 33 percent – with poor and minority children and seniors from urban areas most acutely affected.

When the price of gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil shoot up, New Jersey families foot the bill for fossil fuels that are increasingly scarce. As you all well know, in the last year, gasoline prices have doubled, the price of heating oil has almost doubled, and natural gas bills are up over 30 percent. Just today, the Star-Ledger reported that businesses are feeling the pinch – with the rising cost of energy topping the list of concerns on a survey of small and mid-size businesses.

For the average family, this means roughly 2000 dollars more out of their already tight budgets.

To make matters worse, in the next 15 years, energy use is predicted to grow by nearly 25 percent.

Our over-reliance on fossil fuels represents the biggest challenge of our lifetime, and New Jersey must take the lead in addressing it.

The first step is to begin to treat carbon dioxide as a serious pollutant under the state Clean Air Act – even though Bush’s EPA won’t.

Luckily, New Jersey is not the only one taking global warming seriously. New York, Delaware and the New England states have joined New Jersey to develop an innovative strategy – the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – to limit greenhouse gas emissions across the northeast.

I support this effort, and I will work to get this interstate compact up and running, ensure that polluters are not given a windfall from the sale of emission credits, pursue legal remedies, and work to include more partner states.

New Jersey, however, must not shy away from acting alone.

Instead of building more fossil fuel-burning power plants and expensive new transmission lines to meet increasing demand, we should apply those resources to energy efficiency and renewable energy – like solar power and wind energy.

Today, I am committing that under a Corzine Administration, New Jersey will establish an ambitious goal for reducing energy use while increasing the production of renewable energy. By 2020, we will reduce energy consumption by 20 percent, and we will grow renewable energy resources by 20 percent.

Our state’s top energy priority must be to meet all new demand through upgrades in efficiency.

Several studies have shown that we can reduce energy consumption by 20 percent – virtually canceling out the expected 15-year demand increase – through strategic investments in technology.

I will establish an Energy Efficiency Portfolio standard, which will require that all contracts to sell energy in New Jersey do not just expand generation, but also reduce demand.

I also will improve the energy efficiency standards in our building codes to keep pace with the rest of the region. To minimize upfront costs, special rebates from the “Energy Star” homes program will be targeted to low- and middle-income families.

Since businesses are the biggest consumers of energy, they must be full partners in this effort. I will double the current 100 thousand-dollar cap on Clean Energy Fund grants for large businesses and work to expand the use of Combined Heat and Power — where otherwise wasted heat from electric generation is used to heat buildings.

And for the first time, I will open up the state program to weatherize homes and make furnaces more efficient to the more than 500 thousand oil heat households.

If anyone doubts the potential of energy efficiency programs to reduce energy costs, cleanup the environment, and create jobs – they should talk to the Jewish Community Center of Atlantic City. They recently installed high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, new window treatments, lighting systems, and other upgrades – with annual energy costs savings exceeding 32 thousand dollars. In a little over two years, they will cover all their out-of-pocket costs.

If we’re proactive – these kinds of efficiency upgrades will meet the new demand over the next fifteen years, but that alone will not end our fossil fuel dependency. Eventually, renewable energy will.

Today, just one-percent of our energy is drawn from sources like solar and wind power. If we have any hope of breaking the shackles of our fossil fuel addiction, we can and must do better.

A Corzine Administration will accept, adopt, and implement a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

According to Rutgers study, adopting this new standard will generate 12 thousand new jobs in New Jersey.

To make sure ouur people will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that this new regulation will create, we must ramp up our “homegrown” renewable energy industry,.

As late as 1997, our country was the world’s leading producer of solar photovoltaic systems – like the panels that generate energy for this building. But by 2003 – Japan had outpaced the United States by a margin of 3-to-1.

To maintain our competitiveness, America needs to reassert itself as a dominant player in the renewables industry. If I have anything to say about it – we will.

We should be creating jobs in Newark, in Trenton, and throughout New Jersey – not lining the pockets of oil sheiks in Dubai and Riyadh.

The potential for job creation is huge – as the IBEW can attest. Solar power alone has the potential to generate more than ten times as many jobs as fossil fuel.

That’s why my proposal for an Edison Innovation Fund, a voter-approved initiative to support 21st century industries holds so much promise. Building on the foundation laid by the Clean Energy Program, the Edison Innovation Fund will put our state right in the middle of the renewables industry – which is estimated to generate 40 billion dollars in revenues by 2008.

By taking advantage of existing human capital and infrastructure – especially at Fort Monmouth – we need to establish a world-class center for renewable energy research and manufacturing.

Getting a handle on air pollution also means increasing the efficiency of our cars, trucks, and buses.

I will work with companies to promote car pooling, telecommuting, transit-checks and a range of programs to improve automobile efficiency, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and expand public transportation.

The State Government must lead by example and improve the state’s fleet efficiency. Expanding the use of electric-hybrids and buying more efficient cars will reduce the toll on our environment and – over time — save money.

Other states have implemented effective pollution-busting strategies, and New Jersey should piggyback on those efforts. I am committed to the “California Car” automobile emissions program, which will improve fuel efficiency and cut down on greenhouse gases.

To limit air pollution, we also must improve public transportation. In the Senate, I fought for federal and state funding for projects like the Trans-Hudson Tunnel and the PATCO South Jersey rail system – and I will continue that effort as Governor.

In the 20 dollar a barrel oil economy, mass transit investments made economic sense. In a 60 dollar a barrel of oil world we now live in, these investments have become an economic imperative.

But not every environmental issue lends itself to a simple cost-benefit analysis. We may not be able to quantify all the indirect economic benefits of making our environment a priority, but they’re there.

Open space provides an obvious example. The recreational opportunities of this asset and its aesthetic value are in short supply. Every day, New Jersey loses fifty acres of undeveloped land.

That’s why I fought to protect the New Jersey Highlands –a million acres of forests and farmland, rivers and reservoirs that provide fresh drinking water to more than half of our families.

It’s also why I view the recently passed fast track legislation as a profound error. In the name of streamlining, it eliminates essential protections designed to limit overdevelopment.

We can work to make the permitting process more efficient, but we must not give up the safeguards it provides.

Governor Codey did the right thing by suspending the law and– as Governor – I will make sure that the current fast track law won’t go into effect.

We must act proactively to save our state’s most spectacular and important resources or run the risk of losing them forever.

We already have a great program – the Garden State Preservation Trust, but that fund is about to go broke.

If I am elected, I will ask voters to extend the life of the Garden State Preservation Trust past 2006 and to create the “New Jersey Natural Treasure” designation to direct funding to areas with unique or threatened environmental resources. Places the Highlands. The Pinelands. The Meadowlands. Barnegat Bay. The Delaware Bayshore. The Sourlands. The Wallkill River will be considered for this prioritization.

Under a Corzine Administration, the Trust will expand and rehabilitate our state park system, improve public access to our lands, and focus green acres funds closer to where people live.

We also need to be mindful that while endangered species are protected under New Jersey law, their habitats are not. If our goal is to save animals from extinction, we cannot allow their natural environment to be destroyed. That’s why I’ll extend protection under the Endangered Species Act to animal habitats for the first time and create an incentive program to enlist landowners as partners in conservation efforts.

Clean water and open space preservation efforts work hand-in-hand. Creating natural green buffers around our rivers and reservoirs preserve the beauty of our natural resources, but also save homeowners millions of dollars in reduced costs for water treatment.

If I am elected, I will work to extend what is known as Category One protection – the strictest level of protection under existing law – to more New Jersey waterways. My support for strong protection for New Jersey waterways is a natural extension of my federal legislation now moving in Committee to designate the Musconetcong River a “Wild and Scenic River.”

I also will adopt the toughest clean water standard – the “wildlife standard” — for pollutants like mercury and dioxin, while tightening pollution controls on septic and sewer systems and non-point source pollution.

To keep our beaches clean, we need to keep our oceans clean. Let me be clear – if I am elected, I will employ every legal weapon in the state’s arsenal – from lawsuits to a public boycott – to stop Bush and the Republican Congress’s plan to drill for oil off the Jersey Shore.

My opponent says oil drilling is a “red herring.” With the potential for oil exploration to devastate our environment and the shore economy, I consider it a red alert.

Open space may be in short supply, but hazardous waste is not.

From Ciba Geigy pollution in Toms River, to Ford’s toxic burial ground in the much-discussed Ringwood area, to Honeywell’s chromium dump in Jersey City, communities in every part of New Jersey have faced the cruel consequences of our toxic legacy.

Our families shouldn’t be the ones footing the bill to clean up the industrial mess left by irresponsible companies.

My opponent has attacked me for my support of the Superfund tax, a tax on polluters that pays to cleanup the damage they cause.

My opponent wants people to believe that suing polluters is enough, but – without the superfund tax – many sites never get cleaned up. And when they do, average taxpayers are left paying the bill and polluters go free.

If we really want to overcome our toxic legacy, we also must not stand idly by as the most significant measure to hold polluters accountable expires. Today, I am calling on the Legislature to extend the statute of limitations for natural resource damages on many hazardous waste sites.

Polluters who poison our families need to get the message: they will be held responsible.

Let me also talk about another imperative for the environment. Elected officials who oversee development proposals must base their decisions on merit – not on politics or campaign contributions.

That’s why I have proposed the most comprehensive ethics reform plan this state has ever considered. It will bar people who conduct business with state, county, or local governments from giving contributions to political campaigns. Unlike my opponent’s approach, my plan covers developers too.

Finally, we cannot let poor communities get exploited in this process. I am committed to environmental justice, whether that means addressing the impact of clean air on childhood asthma or preventing eminent domain decisions to build prisons or cement plants. If I am elected, I will make certain that the DEP has the authority to reject projects that cumulatively or disproportionately impact lower income or minority communities.

A commitment to clean air, clean water, and open space is the foundation of a strong economy, and a more affordable and livable Garden State.

By pledging ourselves to defending our natural world, we will reduce pollution for sure. But we also will grow jobs and promote a better quality of life for everyone.

When I led Goldman Sachs, its employees named it one of the ten best places to work in America. Working together to improve the environment, I know we can make New Jersey the best place in America to grow up, go to school, live, work, start a business, and retire with dignity.

Thank you.