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Federal Environmental Changes Boost Importance of NJ’s Elections

By | February 17th, 2017

Elections have consequences, and one major consequence of the 2016 election is sweeping changes to federal environmental and climate policy.

These changes make New Jersey’s 2017 elections all the more critical, according to Bill Kibler, policy director at watershed watchdog Raritan Headwaters.

New Jersey voters will elect a new governor and fill all seats in the state Assembly and Senate on Nov. 7. The election, Kibler said, gives voters an historic opportunity to stand up for the environment and public health by choosing candidates who place a high priority on protecting clean water and air.

“This is an opportunity for a rebirth of the environmental movement, especially the grassroots environmental movement of which watershed associations are a cornerstone,” he said. “The positive message is that 2017 can be the year that New Jersey reclaims its role as a national leader of the environmental movement.”

Only two states – New Jersey and Virginia – have major elections in 2017, and the world will be watching these off-year elections to gauge the mood of voters.

“The eyes of the world are going to be on us in November,” predicted Kibler, who gave a recent talk titled “Elections Have Consequences” at Raritan Headwater’s main office at Fairview Farm in Bedminster. “Folks need to turn out to vote – and to tell the people who are running for office what’s important to them.”

Although the changes in Washington may be alarming, Kibler said voters should remember that New Jersey has the power to enact its own more stringent environmental regulations.

“The federal standards are a floor … and sometimes they’re a basement,” explained Kibler. “New Jersey has historically set higher standards than the federal standard. We’re more densely populated than other states, so we need the higher standards.”

In the absence of federal leadership, he added, New Jersey must reclaim its place as an environmental model for other states to emulate.

“For at least the next four years, we’re not going to have the Environmental Protection Agency as a backstop, said Kibler. But we can protect our own home … we’ll have to.”

New Jersey environmental groups, including Raritan Headwaters, are working to make sure that the environment is considered a major statewide issue by both voters and candidates.

Among the Democratic candidates for governor who will face off in the June 6 primary election are businessman Phil Murphy, Senator Ray Lesniak, Assemblyman John Wisnieski, activist Bill Brennan, businessman Titus Pierce, businesswoman Lisa McCormick, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson, activist Bob Hoatson and businesswoman Monica Brinson.

Among the declared Republican gubernatorial candidates are Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Nutley Commissioner of Public Affairs Steven Rogers, former U.S. Senate candidate Joseph Rullo.

Kibler encourages area residents to familiarize themselves with the candidate’s views on the environment, vote in their party’s June 6 primary, then come to Fairview Farm on Thursday, June 15, for a “Contact your Politicians” event. Participants will learn the most effective ways to make their opinions heard by elected officials and candidates.

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