Calling it a celebration of Earth Day, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe today announced that New Jersey will invest nearly $45 million to reduce greenhouse gases produced by the transportation sector, thanks to funds from the national Volkswagen settlement.
The project solicitation released today is available at www.state.nj.us/dep/vw. Applications are due by June 22, 2020.
The funds invested in electrification upgrades represent the remaining funds from the state’s $72.2 million share of the national Volkswagen settlement. The settlement resulted from federal actions against Volkswagen for installing devices that allowed vehicles it manufactured to emit pollutants without being detected by emissions-testing programs across the nation. Last year, the DEP awarded $24 million in grants to electrify garbage trucks, school buses, NJ TRANSIT buses, and port and airport equipment.
Today’s solicitation marks another milestone in New Jersey’s continued work to electrify the transportation sector, achieve clean energy goals and reduce environmental burdens on New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities including:
- RGGI Strategic Funding Plan. Last week, the DEP, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and New Jersey Economic Development Authority released a formal plan for investing the state’s proceeds from RGGI auctions, expected to be about $80 million each year. The Strategic Funding Plan calls for 75 percent of RGGI auction proceeds over the next three years to be used towards projects that spur clean and equitable transportation by accelerating the transition to electric transportation throughout the state, with a heavy focus on projects that help environmental justice communities.
- NJ Protecting Against Climate Threats. A targeted regulatory reform effort that will modernize environmental laws and regulations to help government, businesses and residents effectively respond to current climate threats and reduce future climate damages.
- Legislation to Boost Electric Vehicle Use. Signed by Governor Murphy on Jan. 17, 2020, the landmark legislation set aggressive goals for New Jersey electric vehicle sales and public charging stations, requiring the establishment of rebates for electric vehicle purchases, and directing the state to electrify its fleet.
- Partnership to Plug-In. On June 3, 2019, the DEP joined the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in a Partnership to Plug-In Memorandum of Understanding, which helped dovetail each agency’s efforts to electrify the transportation sector. Further, the recently signed comprehensive electric vehicle law directed the DEP to develop goals to decarbonize the medium- and heavy-duty trucking sector. These initiatives, combined with Volkswagen mitigation funding, will help us achieve the state’s long-term air quality goals.
- Pay$ to Plug-In Program. The DEP allocated more than $4 million for electric-vehicle charging station grants under It Pay$ To Plug-In, has conducted numerous electric vehicle ride-and-drive events, and actively participates in the regional Drive Change-Drive Electric campaign to help raise consumer awareness about the benefits of clean vehicles.
- NESCAUM Statement of Intent. Signed on Dec. 12, 2019, by New Jersey and seven other states, the Statement of Intent builds on the success achieved from a light-duty zero emission vehicle Memorandum of Understanding signed by New Jersey in 2013. Through the new Statement of Intent, participating states commit to developing another multi-state Memorandum of Understanding to accelerate deployment of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles through a collaborative process facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).
In New Jersey, transportation sector emissions account for 71 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions as well as 42 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions. Nitrogen oxides are a major contributor to smog, which forms when pollutants interact with sunlight and hot temperatures during warmer months to create ground-level ozone molecules.
Ozone is beneficial in the upper atmosphere by shielding harmful rays from the sun but is a health hazard at ground level. Ozone irritates tiny lung sacs, known as alveoli, and can increase asthma attacks in asthmatics and make people more vulnerable to lung diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Long-term exposure to ozone particles can cause lung inflammation, chest pain, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, pulmonary congestion and scarring of lung tissue.