When it comes to reducing the threat of climate change, wow you get there, when can you get there, and at what cost, are the central questions the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is trying to answer.

Sept. 3 it held its second stakeholder meeting as it develops regulations for PACT (“Protecting Against Climate Threats”).

PACT rules are intended to implement Executive Order No. 100 by Gov. Phil Murphy and the Energy Master Plan. The governor has established a goal of being 100% carbon neutral by 2050. This goal is in addition to the Global Warming Response Act’s requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey 80% by 2050.

The stakeholder meeting held on Sept. 3 focused on three topics: 1) reducing carbon emissions from electric generating units (EGUs); 2) setting a low carbon fuel standard for buildings; and 3) electrifying large boilers. Upcoming stakeholder meetings over the next two weeks will focus on electrifying trucks and port facilities.

When commenting on the draft Energy Master Plan (EMP) last fall, NJBIA raised the concerns of cost, timing, practicality, and reliability. We are continuing to push these concerns to make sure that whatever rules are adopted, our businesses can remain competitive and our energy sources will be affordable and reliable. At the time the EMP was adopted, the state said it was largely aspirational and would change over time as technologies advanced and new information became available. However, as we feared, the first set of regulations being drafted now could lock us into decisions and technologies for outcomes desired 30 years into the future.

The DEP is considering requiring EGUs to invest in solar or other green technologies as part of an approval to build a new source or to renew a permit. This would be accomplished through either emission rate or total carbon limits. Environmentalists who participated were pushing for further limits on emissions and a shutdown of all natural gas plants. Environmental justice advocates wanted emission reductions at facilities in their communities.

DEP is also considering setting carbon density standards for fuels used to heat buildings. While the department is focusing on #4 and #6 fuel oils, as well as coal, the paradigm they establish can determine how they may ultimately treat #2 fuel oil and natural gas. The rules will establish DEP’s authority to limit carbon intensity, how the program will operate, and what size buildings will be impacted. These rules also may apply to the residential sector and potentially to single family homes.

Finally, the DEP stakeholder meeting addressed means to electrify industrial boilers. Carbon limits and outright bans are on the table. Stakeholders were reminded that the EMP called for the electrification of all buildings; the questions are how and when and at what cost.

DEP conceded that there is a lot that they do not know on how to implement these regulatory proposals or how to achieve the governor’s or the EMP’s goals. However, it was clear that they have a mandate to propose these regulations nonetheless. It was also clear that the environmental advocates are pushing for ever more stringent requirements. NJBIA will be very engaged in this process and will need your expertise to achieve a better outcome.

Comments on these rules are due by Sept. 17, 2020 with the anticipation that a rule will be proposed by spring 2021. NJBIA welcomes your input in order to best advocate for your interests. Please send me your thoughts at rcantor@njbia.org or call me at 609-433-4931.