Image via ChristieforNJ.com.
The state’s environmental groups remain divided over this year’s governor’s race, and the gap between them widened today with the New Jersey Environmental Federation’s announcement that it would endorse Chris Christie.
The group said at a press conference in Trenton that the Republican candidate had “laid out by far the most impressive green agenda” and demonstrated a “strong commitment to the environment” and willingness to work with the group — which had never before endorsed a GOP candidate in a statewide race.
Poor Gov. Corzine must be nursing a drink somewhere.
Some of the slights the governor has already endured from the state’s greens: The Sierra Club chose independent Chris Daggett, who needs a miracle, and named Corzine the worst on the environment in state history. (“Worse than Whitman,” Jeff Tittel reminded us today.) Environment New Jersey, instead of leaping to Corzine’s defense, decided not to endorse anyone.
Then came today’s announcement in Trenton. “I voted to endorse our governor in 2005, but he has been hugely disappointing, breaking too many environmental promises and failing to effectively lead,” NJEF board member Ben Forest said at the press conference. “I believe Mr. Christie shares our core environmental values… I like his environmental agenda and believe him when he says we will not always agree, but we will be partners in his administration when he is elected.”
The group highlighted: a stated commitment by Christie to fix flaws at the Salem and Oyster Creek nuclear power plants, strengthen stream protection rules and require better pollution control systems for state road projects, as well as his opposition to a coal plant proposed for Linden. Christie has also pledged to establish a long-term funding source for open space preservation.
But Christie, who also has pledged to cut an already slimmed-down Department of Environmental Protection, has not said much about environmental issues until recently, though he did release an energy plan promoting renewables over the summer. He sent Rick Dovey from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority to an environmental panel discussion in his stead last month after briefing him for a matter of minutes.
On Christie’s website now, you’ll find an environmental plan and video statement that emphasizes his desire to return the DEP to its “core mission” of environmental protection and restore Shore protection funds. (Bill Wolfe picked apart the plan in a blog entry today.)
Tittel said that if Daggett were out of the picture, the Sierra Club would probably have sat out the endorsement process. He also said he thought Christie would be “good on open space, clean energy and enforcement” but wasn’t sure about air and water quality regulations.
Rachel Kohl, a global warming associate with Environment New Jersey, kept the group neutral: “We applaud Chris Christie’s commitments today, and urge him, Gov. Corzine and Chris Daggett to detail complete environmental and clean energy agendas in the coming weeks.”
The Corzine camp released a statement from lieutenant governor candidate Loretta Weinberg saying that under Corzine’s leadership, “New Jersey has become a national leader in environmental policy” — presumably referring to his energy master plan, Global Warming Response Act and participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — while “Christie continues to be wrong when it matters most and would turn back the clock on the common sense environmental initiatives that we have fought for over the last four years.”
Politicker NJ talked to Corzine, who was praised last week by Al Gore, at an event tonight. “President Barack Obama selected my DEP commissioner to head the EPA and Al Gore, one of the foremost environmentalists in America, came here to endorse me and knows how we have promoted clean energy alternatives,” Corzine told the site’s reporter. “On an objective basis, environmentalists know we have no intention of despoiling the environment.”
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll Tuesday showed Corzine with a narrow lead over Christie.