October 22, 2020
Bruce S. Katcher
On October 15, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) released New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act 80X50 Report (the Report), outlining the agency’s plans and recommendation as to how the state should achieve the Act’s stated goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below their 2006 levels by 2050. The report, prepared in collaboration with other state agencies, as directed by the Act, makes proposals targeted at seven sectors, many of which come directly from the 2019 Energy Master Plan (EMP) – released in January 2020 to set the path forward to achieve the administration’s goal of achieving 100 percent “clean energy” by 2050 (the 2019 EMP).
The sectors described in the Report and the principal recommendations for each include the following:
- Transportation (currently accounting for 42 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions) – Transportation emissions are targeted for an 87 percent reduction. To achieve that the Report primarily envisions a dramatic increase in the purchase of electric vehicles topping out at 100 percent of all new purchases of light duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, light duty trucks) by 2035 to be facilitated by “legislative, regulatory and programmatic reforms,” and a vast increase in electric charging infrastructure.
- Residential and Commercial Buildings (currently accounting for 26 percent of GHG emissions) – These buildings are targeted for an 89 percent emission reduction, meaning that strategies must be developed to retrofit existing buildings (starting with propane and fuel oil heated buildings) and to cause a revolution in new building construction, likely led by legislation and regulations to cause new construction and upgrades to achieve net zero carbon goals as set forth in the EMP.
- Electric Generation (currently accounting for 19 percent of GHG emissions) – Here too, the EMP’s strategies take the lead and the report relies upon development of renewable energy to replace fossil fuel energy, implementation of new CO2 emission limitations, limitation on the future use and development of fossil-fuel powered electric generating units, facilitation of distributed energy, improvements in energy efficiency, and retention of New Jersey’s existing nuclear energy plants.
- Industrial (currently accounting for 7 percent of GHG emissions) – More modest reductions are contemplated in this sector primarily through energy efficiency and CO2 emission limitations.
- Waste and Agriculture (currently accounting for 5 percent of GHG emissions) – Most of the proposed 15 percent emission reduction in this sector is contemplated to come from improved waste handling and wastewater treatment practices designed to eliminate GHG emissions from organic wastes, primarily food waste and sewage sludge.
- Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (currently accounting for 5 percent of GHG emissions) – These gases are a combination of methane (e.g., from natural gas pipeline leakage), halogenated gases (e. g., HFCs from refrigerant units) and black carbon from various diesel vehicle emissions, the reduction or elimination of which involves a variety of strategies, including recently enacted state legislation to spur elimination of HFCs, leak detection, repair and replacement programs and eventual movement away from natural gas as a fuel source, etc.
- Carbon Sequestration (currently accounting for an 8 percent reduction in GHG emissions) – Here the approach is to implement strategies to protect and enhance New Jersey’s natural carbon sinks – reforestation, restocking woodlands, reintroducing tidal flows into salt marsh systems, actions to avoid loss of natural lands, etc. – to result in the increased ability to sequester carbon and reduce overall GHG emissions.
While the Report itself does not impose any regulatory requirements, it will be looked to by the DEP and other executive branch agencies for guidance as to what requirements will be needed. To that end, the Report acknowledges that the achievement of the 80X50 goal of the Global Warming Response Act will require a “steadfast commitment to successive legislative, regulatory and policy actions that facilitate deep emissions reductions over the next 30 years”. The Report acknowledges that strategies other than those identified may also be appropriate. Whether the path forward outlined in the Report is the right one or is achievable remains to be seen in the coming years. If you have any questions concerning the Report, please contact Bruce Katcher (484-430-2320).