Trenton, NJ: via Sierra Club NJ. Today we found out that the Democrats’ proposed budget, A4000/S17, takes another $19,972,000 from the Clean Energy Fund for Parks Management. It also cuts the DEP budget by $57,447,00. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“We thought Christie’s budget was bad enough but now the Democrats are cutting the DEP by another $57 million. What’s even is worse is that they’re taking another $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund. Some of these cuts will effect site remediation, brownfield clean-up, underground storage tank removal, and hazardous discharge clean-ups as well as parks capital. We’ll have money for open space but we won’t have money for new parks in urban areas or to clean up toxic sites or redevelop brownfields.

“Stealing this money from the Clean Energy Fund hurts jobs and means people are spending more money for electricity and we’re getting more air pollution as well.  People will be spending more money on energy bills while creating more air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. By taking this money it is a hidden tax on businesses and energy consumers.

“Energy efficiency and weatherization are some of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gasses and air pollution. By cutting this money we’re adding to pollution and preventing green jobs from being created. It also hurts New Jersey economically. The money from the Clean Energy Fund should be used to promote new technologies such as fuel cells, wave technology, and energy storage. Without the funding, it puts us at a disadvantage.

“Millions of dollars are also being stolen from the DEP to fund non-environmental programs. This is money that is supposed to be for cleaning up dangerous pollution but instead is going to be diverted to the general funds. This is a death by a thousand cuts. The DEP’s budget has been down a third under the Christie Administration: we now have the lowest level of DEP funding since the Kean Administration.

“New Jersey has been hurt by the effects of climate change and storm events such as Hurricane Sandy. It is unconscionable that the budget is stealing money from the Clean Energy Fund which can help reduce greenhouse gasses and climate change. We’re also seeing a reduction in funding for the DEP. We need these funds to continue important environmental programs across the state. This budget is a smack in the face to New Jersey’s environment.”

Jamie Zaccaria