New Jersey’s Environment: A Matter of Life and Breath

The LD16 GOP incumbents get a big, fat “F” grade on environment. Time for a change. 2 Days till Marie #CorfieldMoneyBomb. Blue Jersey's all-in. Promoted by Rosi.

“What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Have you ever seen a fish out of water, lying there helpless as it gasps for oxygen? That’s what it feels like to have asthma. I know because I have it—along with a host of other food, air and chemical allergies.

The single most important thing we do every day is breathe. To the average person it’s a no-brainer. They can do it in their sleep—literally. But, for almost 700,000 New Jerseyans, breathing, even in their sleep, is a life and death struggle. Fortunately, my disease is well managed. That means taking 3 different prescription medications and carrying an Epi-pen. (Thank goodness I’ve never had to use it.) But for those without health insurance—many of whom are children—every day is a potential fish out of water day.

I grew up in the heart of the opening credits of the Sopranos—Kearny—smack dab in the middle of the toxic stew of the Passaic River and the Diamond Shamrock Plant to the West, New York City and the once-pristine-meadowlands-turned-garbage-dumps to the East, and Newark Liberty Airport and the oil refineries to the South. As a kid, the only time I could really, truly breathe was when we were on vacation in LBI. I moved to Hunterdon County almost 20 years ago for, among other things, better air quality.

But many people in New Jersey don't have that luxury.

According to the New Jersey Environmental Federation, a chapter of Clean Water Action:

• In 2011, there were nearly 2500 hospital admissions for asthma in New Jersey at an average charge of $15,000/stay. Extreme heat and declining air quality are expected to increase risk of respiratory problems and heat stress, including premature death.


• NJ still flunks federal air pollution standards and has some of the worst air in the nation.

• 22,000 NJ homes were left uninhabitable by Sandy, and total NJ business losses are estimated at $8.3 billion. Climate change will only make big storms, severe weather and flooding events more frequent. (My note: Flooding brings mold, a highly toxic substance that affects everyone, regardless of whether or not they had previous respiratory problems. If you have a mold allergy, exposure can be devastating.)

• Only 22 of 952 NJ watersheds meet all water quality standards and even in these ‘healthy watersheds’ the fish are contaminated.

Irresponsible environmental legislation is making New Jersey sick. And an unhealthy society is more expensive and less productive. Is it any wonder that, despite all the great things about this state, we are stereotyped as the ‘Armpit of America’?

The good news is that because of this terrible legacy and the fact that we have environmental gems such as the Highlands, the Pine Barrens, the Meadowlands and the Shore, New Jersey is actually a national leader in environmental policy and legislation.

But the past 4 years have seen some troubling trends. While the Governor’s horrendous record on the environment is well documented, many in the state legislature are equally guilty.

The New Jersey Environmental Federation has released the NJ Environmental Legislative Scorecard. It’s an easy read, and it’s packed with useful information, including a report card on every state legislator. Overall, Democrats scored better than Republicans, but among the leaders of both parties, it’s almost a tie. There are some true environmental Heroes (12 out of the top 13 are Democrats); and Zeros (8 of the bottom 9 are Republicans). There is clearly room for improvement in both parties.

Out of a possible score of 100, my Assembly opponents in the 16th Legislative District scored a combined average of 29.5. In this teacher’s grade book, that’s an F. They didn’t even pick up any extra credits. The top 3 Heroes—Sen. Bob Smith and Asm. Reed Gusciora and John McKeon—all scored over 100 points.

In a district that sits just below the Highlands, touches the Delaware River, cuts through parts of the Sourland Mountains and ends along the Rt. 1 Corridor, with environmentally sensitive gems sprinkled liberally throughout, the impact of their environmental record in their short legislative tenure cannot be underestimated:

• Yes to development in the Highlands and to weakening green building codes—A3680

• No to keeping us in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—S1322

• No to banning fracking waste from NJ—A575

As residents of Princeton and Montgomery fight the expansion of the Transco Fracking Pipeline through their neighborhoods and backyards, Henry David Thoreau’s quote is perhaps more urgent now than when he first uttered it. That’s why we must elect leaders who will nourish and protect the Earth so that we can live healthy and productive lives, and in the process, grow a healthy and robust economy.

And we can all breathe a little easier for it.

That’s why I’m running for Assembly in LD-16.

Click here to learn more and to help me fight to make New Jersey clean.

Note: In 2011 I was honored to receive the endorsement of The New Jersey Sierra Club. While they did not get involved in the special election last year, I'm hopeful that I will again receive their endorsement this year. 

Comment (1)

  1. Momotombo

    In a year of naysayers and those considering the Gubernatorial race already over, here is a race everyone here should be able to get behind and support. LD16 is a winnable district for Marie and if we support her we can see a true progressive dem take a seat away from a Republican.  So, lets get behind Marie on this race!


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