NJ Governor Phil Murphy Should Sign ZEC Program Bill
By Norris McDonald
Senate and House legislators in New Jersey passed S2313 and A3724, companion bills on April 12, 2018 that will ensure the continued operation of the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants in that state. The Zero Emission Certificate (ZEC) legislation provides needed financial support for the facilities.
Salem and Hope Creek power plants support more than 5,000 jobs, produce enough electricity to power 3 million homes per day and provide more than 90 percent of the state's zero-carbon electricity. The bills preserve more than $800 million in annual economic activity across New Jersey.
AAEA testified at hearings in December 2017 and in February 2018 in support of the legislation. Our phone calls to legislators and an Op Ed the day before the vote also hopefully helped in convincing legislators to support the bills. AAEA concentrated on the health effects of closing the plants.
The passage of these bills in New Jersey comes in the wake of similar actions taken by lawmakers in New York and Illinois who recognized the economic and environmental benefits of commercial nuclear energy in those states.
The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus overwhelmingly voted to support nuclear power, giving 90% of its vote to the House and Senate bills. Only two out of twenty members voted against legislation to keep two of the states nuclear plants open. AAEA encouraged the members to support the legislation.
Clearly, the NJ Legislative Black Caucus understands that minority communities are particularly vulnerable to air related illnesses with the highest rates of asthma attack, emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the state. These vulnerable communities are helped by the ability of Hope Creek and Salem nuclear facilities to deliver incredible amounts of baseload electricity without producing any of the air pollution that hurts these areas.
Governor Phil Murphy signed Environmental Justice Executive Order 23 on April 20 directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with support from other state agencies, to develop guidance on how all state departments can incorporate environmental justice considerations into their actions. Environmental justice touches a wide variety of issues related to quality of life, including housing, health, and transportation.
Clearly Governor Murphy understands the link between environmental justice and the effect nuclear power has in mitigating environmental injustice. Governor Murphy recently expressed his support for nuclear energy in a quote to The New York Times, “I believe the biggest bridge we have to our clean energy future are the nukes.” Because nuclear power does not emit any smog forming gases, it is a major clean air asset. This clean air asset is also an environmental justice asset because African Americans throughout New Jersey suffer most from the negative effects of air pollution. The governor expands on his support for environmental justice,
“All of our residents regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion deserve to live in communities free from the effects of pollution and are entitled to participate in decision-making that affects their environment, their communities, their homes and their health. Good environmental policy is something that must lift all communities. The Executive Order I am signing will ensure state agencies are considering the cumulative impacts of their actions in overburdened communities on an ongoing basis.”
The governor understands that low-income communities and communities of color in New Jersey and across the country often bear the brunt of pollution and the impacts of climate change. Further exemplifying the disparity, between 2012 and 2016, the rate of asthma for African Americans was 17.2% compared to 12% for whites in New Jersey.
For these reasons, we encourage Governor Murphy to sign the bill.