Trenton — Wal-Mart has pumped more than $1 million into the Christie administration's “sustainability” initiative. Even as he has been promoting the virtues of sustainability, Governor Chris Christie has dismantled, raided or let lapse an armada of state programs aimed at setting the Garden State onto a meaningfully green path, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Besides the Wal-Mart funding for the 2013 Small Grants Program for municipalities, “Sustainable Jersey” is backed by the utilities PSEG and New Jersey Natural Gas. It has also received state funding as well as an official embrace in a Department of Environmental Protection web-center.
Sustainable Jersey’s website says that corporate “underwriters receive [sic] a host of benefits,” depending on the size of the donation and nature of project funded. However, the beneficial environmental effects of these small planning grants to fewer than a score of cities is dwarfed by Christie administration actions, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Diverting almost $1 billion from the Clean Energy Fund for corporate tax breaks and subsidies;
- Withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and gutting the Global Warming Response Act;
- Letting the Garden State Preservation (Green Acres) and the Transportation Trust Funds go broke;
- Reversing renewable power incentives in the Energy Master Plan by prioritizing fossil fuels over solar energy and eliminating a surcharge for low-income energy efficiency and solar power;
- Rolling back eco-planks in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, Water Supply Master Plan, Water Quality Planning program; and regional planning in the Highlands and Pinelands;
- Raiding the State Recycling Fund, garbage disposal surcharge monies to support local recycling;
- Mowing down Coastal Area Facility Review Act requirements while refusing to update inland flooding maps or develop a climate change adaption plan;
- Deep-sixing the Drinking Water Quality Institute.
“On sustainability, Governor Christie is an emperor with no clothes and Sustainable Jersey is not even a plausible fig leaf,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that critics claim Wal-Mart eco-expenditures are part of a strategy to lessen local opposition to its expansion plans. “While cities receiving these corporate-backed grants do not have to take a loyalty oath to Wal-Mart and other sponsors, it is poor politics to bite the hand that feeds you.”
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability