Tag Archive: green

S-1 hearing wrap-up, and our testimony

New Jersey’s progressive community – and some not so usual allies – slowed the S-1 juggernaut today. With about 40 speakers in opposition, and many more in the audience clapping in support, the bills many flaws became manifestly apparent. As one Blue Jersey commenter pointed out, anyone there could understand why Sen. Lesniak didn’t want to take testimony – S-1, quite simply, got torn apart from every angle.

It’s bad for South Jersey (as Asw. Riley pointed out to DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa, who avoided the question with a long discussion of the entire history of COAH); it’s bad for cities and first suburbs in North Jersey (as we pointed out in a spirited exchange with Asm. Green, who recognized that the bill would overly concentrate poverty in communities like Plainfield). And it’s bad for middle-class people like firemen and police – a point that Asm. Scalera’s questions focused heavily on.

It’s bad for builders and the economy – as many of the state’s big time builders (that’s the part about nontraditional allies) and the New Jersey Builders Association hammered home – not to mention Habitat for Humanity and the Housing and Community Development Network. It’s bad for the environment – as Dianne Brake of PlanSmart, Judy Remington of Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, and Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club pointed out in extended testimony.

It would turn back the clock decades on civil rights, as the NAACP’s Kelly Francis and Mike McNeil pointed out in forceful testimony on the “Jim Crow” nature of the bill. And it would halt NJ’s progress in deinstitutionalizing people with special needs, as several groups working on supportive housing pointed out.

Oh, yeah, Steve Lonegan et al don’t like S-1 either which helps explain this morning’s rare sight of a Republican Assembly member, Michael Patrick Carroll, conducting a lengthy cross-examination of a member of Gov. Christie’s cabinet.

The only supporters of the bill were, well, not quite supporters – they all wanted amendments, in ways that seemed to contradict with each other. The non-residential developers, NAIOP, want changes. The Governor’s office wants changes. The League of Municipalities and New Jersey Conference of Mayors want changes. These changes do not, at least from what was discussed, sound like they overlap very much.

The Christie-Lesniak team still wants a bill passed by June 30 and are exerting tremendous pressure to do so. The rationales for the deadline are flimsy – a Lesniak quote in the Ledger mentioned the “fiscal year” (despite the lack of connection of this bill to the budget) and DCA Commissioner Grifa felt that things were close. But, as Asm. Green repeatedly said during the hearing, rushing the bill has many risks – of a court challenge or totally ineffective system.

Thanks so much to the Blue Jersey community – you have been great in your support on pushing the Legislature to reflect the will of its constituents. And thanks to Speaker Oliver, Majority Leader Cryan, Chairman Green, and Vice-Chair Jasey for slowing the process down.

But we’re not done yet –  the Governor and Sen. Lesniak are still trying to bully the Assembly into passing S-1. We need to keep the pressure up against the serious push we are seeing. Let me know at adamgordon@fairsharehousing.org if there are any members of the Assembly you can reach out to.

Our testimony, per several people’s request, is after the jump.

Live Blogging the S-1 Hearing

Promoted by Rosi

10:00 am – Assemblyman Green opened the hearing by reiterating that this is for discussion only; that we need a system; saying everyone will be heard; and asking for a civil debate. Introduces Commissioner Grifa.

10:05 am – Commissioner Grifa starts by quoting various people who are opposed to COAH. In the first few are Americans for Prosperity and an “anonymous blogger” who says COAH “creates ghettoes.” Also an anonymous quote about how “COAH forces us to change the character of our communities.” What, exactly, is meant by that “character”?

She urges the committee to pass legislation now.

10:20 am – Asm. Scalera asks some very reasonable questions – if there is $280 million sitting in trust funds, why aren’t we spending it?

Commissioner Grifa: we have local control over those funds, and so the state can’t do anything about them.

10:26 am – Asm. Riley asks one of the key questions in the debate – why the inclusionary standard in the bill discriminates against South Jersey.

Commissioner Grifa: Towns in NJ that are carrying numbers that go back decades (i.e. towns that did not do what they were supposed to do) – we are going to forgive prior unmet need going forward and start the passage of this legislation at the year zero.

(Waiting to see if Asm. Riley realizes that the answer has nothing to do with the question she asked).

She talks about the multifamily housing standard that defines units as affordable based on architecture – and how the administration wants to weaken this standard in some ways and not in other ways.

(OK, this still has nothing to do with Cumberland County.)

And now talks about what a town can do if not inclusionary – various criteria.

(OK, still doesn’t talk about why almost all of Salem and Cumberland County is not inclusionary and has to do more).

more beyond the jump…

Assembly puts the brakes on S-1

The S-1 runaway train has hit a bump in the road.

Finally, our political leadership has realized that ramming a deeply unpopular bill through the Legislature that has managed to alienate all of the Democrats’ core constituencies – and a few of the Republicans’ too – is not such a good idea.

Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green released a statement late today stating “MY PRIORITY IS AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LAW THAT WORKS, NOT ONE THAT IS RUSHED”. His words shows that he has been listening – a skill in short supply in this debate so far.

He, Vice Chair Mila Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan heard – from everyone – that we need reform of our state’s complex affordable housing laws.

But they also heard – from the NAACP, every Catholic Bishop in the state of NJ, the Sierra Club, Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and so many others – that we need reform that produces more homes, that recognizes the diversity already present in our cities and first suburbs, and that we don’t want a prolonged court battle – we want to get it right the first time.

It can be hard to get elected officials to listen. But this bill is such a colossal disaster that finally the Assembly realized that it had to stop – both because it made no political sense, and because of the sheer force of the groups against it.

We are not out of the woods yet. Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak may still try to bully the Legislature into passing something by June 30, their arbitrary self-imposed deadline. Sen. Lesniak says exactly that in the Ledger. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on – through phone calls to legislators and through attending the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing this Thursday at 10 am in Committee Room 11.

And no doubt even if S-1 does not get passed this month, there will be more to come. New Jersey does need housing policy reform. And there will continue to be those who try to exploit that need for reform to push the wrong policies – that ask our cities and first ring suburbs to do more than their fair share, don’t produce homes, and destroy our environment.

But for this moment, at least, we have achieved a significant victory, thanks to many people coming together, and to the leadership of Oliver, Cryan, Green, and Jasey (with an important honorable mention to the senators who stood up to the S-1 juggernaut – Rice, Turner, Weinberg, and, with an unusually public and vocal abstention, Don Norcross). And BlueJersey has been a big part of that – thanks very much to all of you for making calls and spreading the word and to Rosi and Jason for their constant encouragement. We look forward to updating you on the hearing tomorrow and what comes next after.

Solar Powered Water and Sewer coming soon, along with much more

Over at Cooler Planet, they have an article about New Jersey going even greener:

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has approved the construction of three out of 59 vital sewer system and drinking water infrastructure projects for the tri-county area made possible by the state’s $840 million package of federal and state aid.

The first so far approved is Mount Laurel’s Municipal Utility Authority, which is ready to initiate the bidding process on an estimated $5.3-million project that will put solar panels on the township’s main wastewater pumping station and drinking water well off Ramblewood Parkway.

Because the project will be bonded with federal stimulus money, half the loan doesn’t need to be repaid. The other half, borrowed at a low-market rate of 1.2 percent over 20 years (the most recent quote) through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, means that the loan will virtually pay for itself in terms of energy savings over the course of the next eight years.

An additional $300,000 a year in RECs (renewable energy credits), sold to electricity supplier Public Service Enterprise Group to meet its state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 22.5 percent by 2021 (2.12 percent of that strictly from solar), will be the icing on the cake.

Here’s how it will work and how much they will save:

Power for the wastewater treatment station, which handles 20 percent of the municipality’s wastewater, and the well – which provides about 15 percent of the drinking water – will be provided via a system of ground mounted solar panels delivering 529 kilowatts whose installation will save the community about $90,000 in electricity costs.

According to Mount Laurel’s Municipal Utility Authority (MUA) Executive Director Pam Carolan, the use of the solar panels to provide electricity means that, over a year, the amount of electricity purchased from Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) will be zero.

And it’s not just one town that is working to move in the direction of using more renewable energy for their services:

The project is only one of many in the works, as other municipalities and towns like Camden, Camden County, Deptford and Bordentown City consider their own sewer system and drinking water projects for solar upgrades’s recent initiative to install solar power units on 200,000 utility poles in PSE&G’s service territory, which includes New Jersey’s six largest cities and roughly 300 rural and suburban communities – a project being billed as the largest pole-attached solar installation in the world – and you have a major case of greening that extends beyond the state’s reputation for truck farms delivering produce to Pennsylvania to the west and New York to the north.

And that’s on top of the nation’s largest rooftop solar project that we talked about earlier this week. And we also wrote about M & M’s going green in Morristown. And then there was this NY Times story from a year ago that explained why New Jersey was a leader:

Most of the efforts so far are in California, New Jersey and Connecticut, states that offer generous incentives. Executives say they would like to convert many more. How quickly they can do so depends on government policy because retailers rely on tax incentives to offset the cost.

I’m sure that Governor Corzine and his policies had nothing to do with any of this development and increase in the use of solar energy. That’s probably why we haven’t seen releases praising these developments, merely statements that criticizing other areas. There’s always more to do, but it’s not like we’re not doing anything in this state as people are being led to believe.

Encouraging financial savings through energy improvements

This looks like a good progressive solution to help promote energy conservation, while realizing economic savings.:

Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation encouraging public entities, including the state, counties, municipalities, school districts, and public colleges, to implement energy savings improvement programs. The bill, A1185/ S 1537, will help public agencies reduce their energy consumption and realize financial savings.

“The bill I am signing is a win-win for our state,” said Corzine. “Towns, schools, counties and public colleges can now become more energy efficient and save money when they retrofit their buildings and enter into long-term energy contracts with no additional costs. At the same time, our larger Energy Master Plan goals as a State are also being fulfilled. Not only will this new law help reduce our carbon emissions, it will make local government more cost-efficient and create jobs immediately to limit the impact of the recession on New Jersey.”

Through the new program, public organizations will be able to contract with energy services companies to implement the energy saving measures. The money saved through the reduction in energy expenses will defray the cost of energy infrastructure improvements.  Public agencies will have the ability to benefit from the acquisition of new, efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment, as well as other energy-saving improvements without the need for large upfront capital expenditures.

Depending on the local entity, some will save more than others. Replacing insulation and appliances in older buildings will probably realize a greater savings than changing the light bulbs in more modern buildings. The bill passed the Assembly 76-1 and Senate 36-0 with broad bi-partisan support. This also shows the importance of electing new progressives at the State Level. Sheila Oliver was elected in ’04, Pam Lampitt in ’06 and Wayne DeAngelo in ’08.  They came together with Senator Smith to produce a significant piece of legislation that will create jobs, save energy, and save taxpayer money through green initiatives. Here’s a video from the Assembly along with some statements from the bill signing: