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New Jersey Governor Announces $100M for Electric Vehicles

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday announced millions of dollars in new transportation investments meant to bring a cleaner environment and years of good-paying jobs to portions of the Garden State.

Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
(TNS) — In a community where low-income residents were subjected to years of air and water pollution, Gov.  Phil Murphy  on Tuesday announced millions of dollars in new transportation investments meant to bring a cleaner environment and years of good-paying jobs to portions of the state.

Murphy's announcement — $100 million toward electrifying New Jersey's transportation sector — was the latest in the administration's ambitious goals of steering the state's economy away from fossil fuels, reducing pollution in communities of color and high-poverty areas, and creating new jobs.

"We set a clear message that economically disadvantaged areas of our state will no longer be dumping grounds, that the rights of our residents to clean air and water will no longer be overlooked, and that our government has a responsibility and indeed a moral duty to ensure those rights are upheld," the governor said during a press conference inside the Newark Public Works garage.

Murphy said the money would be invested in various environmental transportation projects, including $9 million for electric garbage and delivery trucks, $13 million for electric school buses and shuttle buses in low- and moderate-income communities, and $15 million toward NJ TRANSIT bus electrification.

The money stems from a settlement between New Jersey and Volkswagen — the car company pleaded guilty in 2017 to a criminal conspiracy to cheat U.S. emissions regulations — and proceeds from the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

"We are at an inflection point – the future strength of our state depends on how aggressively we act to reduce the emission of climate pollutants today, and how well we use the great opportunities now before us to promote overdue environmental and economic justice," state Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said in a statement released by the governor's office.

Kim Gaddy , a Newark resident of three asthmatic children and environmental justice organizer at the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action, said her community is "on the front lines of overlapping health, economic, racial, injustice, democratic and climate crises."

The electrification of the state's transportation sector "can't happen fast enough," said Gaddy. "Gradual, incremental steps just won't do. The price we pay every day... is increased asthma attacks, cancers, heart attacks and death, which is unacceptable."

Air pollution diminishes human lung function, increases hospital visits for asthma, and leads to thousands of premature deaths in the United State each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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More than 8 million people across the world died in 2018 from fossil fuel-related air pollution, according to a recent study by the universities of Harvard, Birmingham, Leicester and College London published in the journal Environmental Research.

Gaddy said about 22,000 truck trips to and from the ports of New York and New Jersey travel through Newark each day, leaving behind fossil fuel air pollution and doing harm to the city's residents each day.

"We must ensure that clean, renewable energy powers electrification and not fossil fuels," she said. "We must also ensure local residents are prioritized for these jobs, and communities most impacted by the pollution see the reductions first."

In the Public Works garage, Murphy signed an executive order establishing the Office of Climate Action and Green Economy, which will be headed by Murphy's senior policy advisor  Jane Cohen . She previously worked as director for environmental health policy at Isles Inc., a Trenton-based community development and environmental organization.

The new Office of Climate Action and Green Economy will be tasked with ensuring that New Jersey policies aimed at addressing climate change and clean energy goals prioritize equity and environmental justice, according to Murphy's office.

Cohen said the new jobs created through New Jersey's climate and carbon-free energy programs would be "family sustaining clean energy jobs."

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The new executive order aims to drive sustainable economic growth and development, accelerate jobs in green industries, promote workforce development and support displaced workers.

"This council will help us chart a course to a green economy with equity and justice at the front of the conversation," Murphy said.

Building this "green" economy is a "once-in-a-generation opportunity for New Jersey," he said.

Mary Barber , director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said Murphy's announcement will make New Jersey a leading market for electric vehicle manufacturers.

"Trucks and buses are major sources of harmful air pollutants, including greenhouse gases," Barber said in a statement. "Electrifying this sector offers the biggest benefit to our communities and children who deserve to breathe cleaner, healthier air."

(c)2021 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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