New Jersey Makes Significant Commitments to Transportation Electrification

May 15, 2020

The New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition (NJCCC) is pleased to report major new initiatives, with available funding, designed to stimulate the electrification of New Jersey’s transportation sector.

New Jersey saw its first major payout from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in March 2020, receiving $20 million in proceeds from its first quarterly carbon dioxide allowance auction since rejoining the initiative. RGGI proceeds, besides signaling a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide, will help pave the way for new infrastructure, financing mechanisms, carbon recapture technologies, ecological restoration, and advanced vehicle technologies.

Proceeds will be appropriated according to the recently released 2020-2022 Strategic Funding Plan, developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU), and the Economic Development Agency (NJEDA). Sixty percent of funds will be allocated to the NJEDA and the remaining 40 percent are split between the NJBPU and NJDEP.

New Jersey saw its first major payout from RGGI in March, receiving $20 million in proceeds from its first quarterly auction since rejoining the initiative.

In their April 17th press release, the NJEDA detailed the state’s plan to invest $80 million each year in “programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive forward projects that boost clean energy and create jobs, protect the health of residents in environmental justice communities, and increase the resiliency of coastal communities.” Specifically, the Strategic Funding Plan outlines four main initiatives: catalyzing clean equitable transportation, creating a state Green Bank, promoting blue carbon in coastal habitats, and enhancing forests and urban forests.

Climate Change Policy Approach

These initiatives are echoed throughout New Jersey’s climate change policy approach. Under the direction of Governor Phil Murphy, the state formally re-entered the regional agreement in early 2020 after two years of negotiations and rulemaking. The state now participates in the cap-and-trade program with Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. New Jersey had been one of the original participants in the program but withdrew from it under the previous administration.

Though RGGI only regulates electricity producers, auction proceeds will be used to bolster the aforementioned initiatives and support Governor Murphy’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, as outlined in his administration’s 2020 Energy Master Plan. To achieve these goals, significant resources will be allocated to the state’s largest emitter: the transportation sector.

RGGI proceeds will help pave the way for new infrastructure, financing mechanisms, carbon recapture technologies, ecological restoration, and advanced vehicle technologies.

Unsurprising to most New Jersey residents, emissions from our transportation sector account for 71 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions as well as 42 percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.  Our geographically, culturally, and politically diverse state consists of approximately 9 million residents, 21 counties and 564 municipalities, and is one of the most densely populated states in the U.S. There are more than 6.6 million vehicles registered in New Jersey, about 3.9 million of which are cars. The remainder are trucks and other commercial vehicles. The state has substantial and significantly growing cargo volumes handled by major seaports, airports, warehouses, and distribution facilities. With numerous major thoroughfares, given its position as a north-south and east-west corridor, the state has significant transportation related challenges.

EJ Communities Bear the Brunt of Transportation Sector’s Emissions

As is often the case, Environmental Justice (EJ) communities bear the brunt of the transportation sector’s emissions, as low-income housing is often located along major roadways, highways, and near industrial centers. Particulate matter and other pollution from vehicles disproportionately affect these communities, who consequently suffer from significantly higher rates of asthma, cardiovascular issues, lung disease, and cancer. The Governor’s plan recognizes that there is a dire need for reduction of emissions from the transportation sector.

The RGGI Strategic Funding Plan proposes to catalyze clean, equitable transportation with a focus on electrification. This initiative aligns directly with the Energy Master Plan, which directs the electrification of nearly all the state’s transportation sector by 2050. Specific measures include the establishment of EV charging stations at multi-family homes, hotels, and workplaces and the deployment of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by commercial and industrial establishments, including transit buses operated by New Jersey Transit.

The RGGI Strategic Funding Plan proposes to catalyze clean, equitable transportation with a focus on electrification. This initiative aligns directly with the Energy Master Plan.

NJDEP to Use VW Mitigation Trust to Fund Projects

In addition to the RGGI funds, as part of the Murphy Administration’s stated goal of prioritizing initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and associated health impacts in EJ communities, the NJDEP plans to use the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust to fund approximately $37 million worth of projects to replace old diesel trucks, buses, port equipment, marine vessels, and trains with new technology that runs on electric.  In addition, the settlement funds will dedicate an additional $7.6 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including publicly available fast chargers, throughout the state.

“Together with the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan, this is an historic investment in New Jersey’s communities and environment,” wrote Commissioner Catherine McCabe in a NJDEP press release. “New Jersey’s transportation sector is a major source of both greenhouse gases and pollutants that threaten the health of our residents. This injection of millions of dollars will grow the clean energy economy and protect our residents against climate threats.”

Additional State Initiatives to Electrify Transportation Sector

The RGGI Strategic Funding Plan and the Volkswagen announcement are milestones in the state’s effort to electrify the transportation sector.  Other recent initiatives include:

  • Legislation to Boost Electric Vehicle Use. With significant support from the NJCCC and others, this landmark legislation sets aggressive goals for electric vehicle sales and public charging stations. The new law establishes point of sale rebates for light-duty EVs, directs the state to start the process of electrifying its own fleet, and directs the DEP to develop goals to decarbonize the medium- and heavy-duty trucking sectors.
  • Partnership to Plug In. The NJDEP, EDA, and BPU implemented a Memorandum of Understanding designed to assure that the agencies coordinate each other’s efforts to electrify the transportation sector.
  • It Pay$ to Plug-In Program. The DEP has allocated more than $4 million to date for a highly successful program to provide rebates to offset the cost of installation of EV charging stations.
  • NESCAUM Statement of Intent. Signed by New Jersey and seven other states, the state is committed to developing a multi-state Memorandum of Understanding to accelerate deployment of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles through a process facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management.

Other alternatives such as renewable natural gas are widely available now using proven technologies that may provide similar environmental benefits at a much lower cost.

Renewable Natural Gas is Proven Technology Widely Available Now

These efforts are strongly supported by the NJCCC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. However, while a long-time advocate for electrification of the transportation sector, the NJCCC notes that the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan and many of the recent initiatives do not acknowledge alternative and renewable transportation fuels and technologies other than electric. Other alternatives such as compressed natural gas, and in particular renewable natural gas, are widely available now using proven technologies that may provide similar environmental benefits at a much lower cost.