Every year since he was chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, Senator Bob Smith has made a list of things he wants to do. At a joint meeting of the NJBIA Environment and Energy Policy Committees on Jan. 17, he shared the list with about 60 business advocates at Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick.
“Please don’t be terrified,” Smith joked.
“I start every two-year session making up a list,” Smith said. “We made about 50% of it over the last two years. So from the point of view of not getting crazy, this is a list of things I might like to do but maybe won’t get done because of the nature of the legislative process.”
Smith said he intends for the Senate to pass the same bill it passed during lame duck, leaving it up to the Assembly and Governor to decide where they want to go next. He said he is willing to consider other ideas, but that thicker plastic bags would not be one of them. As passed last session, that bill would ban both plastic and paper single use bags in two years and phase out polystyrene.
Another bill from last session that came close but did not make it to the Governor’s desk, this measure would require food waste to be taken to a bio-digestion facility, depending on the amount generated and the availability of an appropriate facility.
Smith did not give details, but wanted attendees to know it’s on his agenda.
Smith said he wants to make the agency more transparent on a basic level: Earlier meeting notices with clearer descriptions of what business will be undertaken and providing digital access to supporting documents. “The public should have some clue about what’s going on,” Smith said.
Smith plans to look into new and better ways to dispose of the recycled plastics, glass and paper New Jersey collects. (See related story.)
Smith described them as places where people who are food-challenged can get a plot of land to grow food for themselves. He saw them working in Israel and thinks they have a place in New Jersey.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)
In 14 states, lenders are allowed to increase the value of a property for collateral if it has been upgraded with clean energy projects, Smith said. He wants it to apply to residences and commercial buildings.
Date Labeling for Food
Smith said he wants to standardize the process for labeling products in supermarkets to show how long the food is safe to eat. Smith said he has held off on legislation until now in hopes of a national system being established, but is tired of waiting.
Constitutional Amendment on Fossil Fuels
The amendment would prohibit New Jersey from building any new electricity generation facilities that use fossil fuels. Smith called it a conservative approach because it will only eliminate fossil fuel plants after alternatives are found to replace their production. Some want to ban existing fossil fuel plants, which Smith indicated was impractical.
Smith says the State of New Jersey should be dedicating itself to sustainability in the products it purchases from the private sector. As Smith put it, “We can’t tell you what to do if we’re not doing it ourselves.”
Uniform Solar Zoning
Individual municipal ordinances are “screwing up solar,” according to Smith, so he wants the state to set the standard for installing solar panels, possibly through the Uniform Construction Code.
Unlike carbon dioxide, black carbon—the leftover particulate matter from incomplete fuel combustion—warms the Earth by absorbing sunlight and radiating its heat. Smith wants to reduce its presence in New Jersey.
Short for Neonicotinoids, Neonics are a class of pesticides linked to the reduction of the bee population and other adverse ecological effects. Smith wants to restrict their use.
Better known as “forever chemicals” because they accumulate in living organism over their lifetimes, PFAs were going to be addressed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency before President Donald Trump was elected, Smith said. Since that is on hold, Smith wants the state to take on the issue.
Natural Resources Damages
Smith had put together one of his task forces to make recommendations on how to get those who have “polluted the land” to financially compensate the state for the loss of environmental resources. That task force, however, has not been able to develop consensus legislation. He said he will now develop his own legislation with the goal to establish some objective standards for damage assessments.
Beach Access II
A follow-up to the statute Smith ushered through the Legislature last session.
HFCs are a class of chemicals the Legislature decided to limit in the previous session, but some potential unintended consequences may result. For one thing, Smith noted that California exempted boat building from its HFC ban.
Smith said he will reintroduce his 40-cent-per-1,000-gallon water tax to raise $150 million to raise money for water infrastructure. We have a huge water problem in the State of New Jersey that goes beyond lead in water pipes, Smith said.
Utility Scale Solar
Individual solar farms and rooftop solar panels are not going to be enough to get New Jersey’s electricity system free from fossil fuel electricity generation by 2050, Smith said.