2020-2021 NJ Legislature Champions 11 Environmental Laws, Best Showing in Years

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
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(Trenton, NJ): The New Jersey Legislature has had its best session on the environment in well over a decade made all the more necessary due to the overlapping climate, health, democratic, racial and economic crises New Jersey faces according to a scorecard released by Clean Water Action today. As these crises are accelerating, the group called on the Legislature to do even more, even faster to create a healthier future and green jobs for New Jersey families and generations to come.

“In a session marked by crisis after crisis from COVID and George Floyd to the January 6th insurrection and Ida, a majority of legislators rose to the occasion and made the connection that protecting our environment means protecting our health, greening our economy, and standing up for justice,” said Eric Benson, NJ Campaign Director, Clean Water Action. “It has been over a decade since we have seen a legislative session this productive. Given the crises we face, we must make this the norm in both lame duck and future sessions.”

The scorecard documents action on the 16 most significant environmental bills of the 2020-21 NJ Legislature, as well as the steps legislators must still take to protect residents’ health and tackle these crises. The scorecard found:

  • 11 pro-environment bills passed both houses and were signed into law by Governor Murphy;
  • 8 of these bills previously highlighted as “stalled” in the 2019 Legislative Scorecard are now law;
  • Democrats voted overwhelmingly pro-environment while Republicans generally did not;
  • 19 legislators were named heroes for their environmental leadership with two, Senators Weinberg (D-37) and Bateman (R-16) getting special recognition as they retire this January -- Senate President Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Coughlin (D-19) were also recognized for presiding over these environmental successes;
  • The Legislature must prioritize 3 pro-environment bills during this lameduck session -- Recycled Content, Clean Energy Equity and the Green Amendment;
  • The state’s efforts to make voting easier during the pandemic were welcome, but roadblocks to democracy in New Jersey that privilege insiders, and pre-date the “Big Lie”, must still be overcome;
  • Clean Energy Fund and NJ Transit both remain woefully underfunded; and
  • Legislators must now mount a response that meets the urgency of the moment, i.e. achieving the scientific consensus that we must cut climate emissions by 45% by 2030 to ensure a livable future.

“What has always made Clean Water Action’s Scorecard different is our emphasis on what happens BEFORE the final vote,” added Janet Tauro, New Jersey Board Chair. “The legislators who fought to bring bills like the Bag Ban and the Environmental Justice law to the floor are the real champions of this excellent session. These laws now serve as a model for other states to follow.”

“The Environmental Justice Law is a landmark victory and culmination of 12 years of coalition work to protect overburdened communities that are largely Black, Brown and low income from new pollution,” said Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Director and Newark Resident. “Our hope is, going forward, that the legislature continues to prioritize environmental and social justice remedies, not just when a health or racial crisis demands it.”

“Before you return your vote by mail ballot or head to the polls for early voting or on election day, take a minute to see how your local legislators voted. We have the power to fight for real environmental representation in Trenton, but first we need to know who is fighting for us,” noted Amy Goldsmith, State Director. “Our Scorecard is a tool for the public to use to hold our elected officials accountable at the ballot box and in the upcoming lameduck and new session that starts in January 2022.”

To view the 2021 Scorecard, as well as see the list of 2021 environmental champions, please visit: www.cleanwateraction.org/njscorecard2021

What Legislative Environmental Heroes are Saying

“I am honored to be named as one of Clean Water Action’s environmental heroes, which acknowledges my legislative efforts to ensure that everyone – regardless of their zip codes or income – have access to clean air, clean water, and clean energy,” said Senator Troy Singleton, who has championed environmental justice, drinking water, and energy equity initiatives. “While I am thankful for this recognition, we must continue our fight for the pursuit of environmental justice and equity for New Jersey’s families and communities.”

“Protecting our environment has always been a top priority of mine, as evidenced by my work to expand the affordability and accessibility of electric vehicles, to map and replace lead service lines, and to eliminate our reliance on single-use plastics. It is truly an honor to be recognized by Clean Water Action for this work,” said Senator Linda Greenstein. “I look forward to a continued partnership with Clean Water Action - not only keeping New Jersey a leader in environmental protection, but greener and cleaner for generations to come.”

“I want to thank Clean Water Action for their decision to recognize me as an Environmental Hero for the 2020-2021 legislative session. It has been my honor to defend the environmental rights and justice of New Jerseyans throughout my tenure in the Assembly, and I look forward to continuing this important work," said Assembly Dan Benson. "Whether we are enshrining environmental rights in our State Constitution, legislating an end to the pandemic of plastic in our oceans, fighting for energy equity for our most disadvantaged communities (and making sure that energy comes from renewable, carbon-free sources), encouraging the use and expanding the range of mass public transportation, or protecting New Jerseyans’ right to vote, I am proud to be a part of these efforts, and I will continue to fight for progress and keep our Great State moving toward a brighter, cleaner, and more equitable future for all,” 

“Protecting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint carries great urgency due to the serious threat of climate change,” said Senator Shirley Turner. “Ensuring that our state continues to do its part in reducing the effects of climate change, maintaining equal access to clean and renewable energy, and protecting underserved communities has been a top priority for me. I am honored to be recognized as an Environmental Hero, and I am proud that my record reflects support for policies that will help keep our Garden State green and our environment clean and healthy for generations to come.”

“I would like to thank Clean Water Action for their support and endorsement. Clean air, clean water, and clean energy are our wisest long-term investment. By embracing the desire to protect our environment, we can create more and better jobs, protect the air our children breathe and the water they drink," said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.

"The environment doesn't care what your party affiliation is. The fight against climate change is an all hands on deck situation. From protecting the Highlands and Global Warming Response Acts of the past to the great laws we've gotten past this term, the environment and the people are best served when representatives of both parties work together. Others in my party now need to rise to the occasion and I look forward to helping them to do so as my next act,” said Senator Kip Bateman.

“I am honored to be listed as an environmental hero from Clean Water Action. Setting and meeting ambitious goals to protect New Jersey’s environment isn’t an option; it is an obligation we owe to our children and the future of our state. Passing a green amendment for generations to come, electrifying transit and buses, fighting for environmental justice, and ensuring residents in every zip code have clean air and water, have and will continue to be priorities of mine,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.

“We’ve had a pretty good term but we still have to do better. In lame duck we need to get recycled content, neonics (a pesticide), and energy efficiency across the finish line and I’m already working on a new slew of bills on climate and so much more for next year. I’m committed to working with my legislative colleagues and Governor Murphy and we’ll have big shoes to fill with the retirements of Sens. Bateman and Weinberg”, said Senator Bob Smith.

"I am honored to be regarded as an environmental hero by Clean Water Action for the 2020-21 legislative session. As Chair of the Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources, protecting the environment and continually working to combat climate change has been one of my main objectives. Everybody, everywhere has the right to clean drinking water. I will never stop fighting to protect our environment and make a safer, healthier state for everybody living in it." - Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak

“It is my honor to be recognized by Clean Water Action for the important legislative accomplishments we have achieved this session. I hope to continue to work with our leaders and champion new environmental policies to ensure New Jersey is a greener and more sustainable state,” said Assemblyman James Kennedy.

"As the prime sponsors of the Environmental Justice law and Green Amendment bill, I couldn't be prouder of the first or more committed to the second. Every person should have the right to a clean and healthy environment regardless of their zip code. My legislative colleagues and I have gotten a lot done in the last 2 years but we have much more to do beginning the second the lame duck session starts in November,” said Assemblyman John McKeon.

"I am proud to be named a Clean Water Action Environmental Hero for my strong legislative record on the environment," Senator Teresa Ruiz said. "As a legislator representing a heavily industrialized part of the state, I remain steadfast in my commitment to clean air, clean water and environmental justice. We only have one planet and we must protect it for our children."

“Environmental and climate change are some of the most important issues of our time. It is about preserving the earth and the entire human race. We must collectively work together to do better as a society to lessen the impact of pollution, particularly in our urban areas where environmental racism is real. We must rid every household of lead and need to be more creative in how we think about infrastructure to limit the emission of fossil fuel. Clean water action has been at the forefront of these issues and more. It is not only my honor but my duty to serve on the front lines with them to make our climate better," said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake

"Access to clean water and fresh air are essential to all communities throughout our country, and especially the state of New Jersey. We must work to ensure that having clean water and air remains a human right and not a privilege,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter

"Since taking office in 2018, I have been fighting to protect our environment, the health of our residents and children, and our state's natural resources. I fought against a proposed fracked gas power plant, sponsored NJ's Environmental Justice Law to help protect our overburdened communities, and sponsored the Bag Ban Law to reduce litter as well as plastic waste and pollution in our waterways. I also sponsored legislation designed to encourage our movement to plug-in vehicles and renewable solar and wind energy to move New Jersey to clean transportation and energy," said Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese. "While I am proud of our accomplishments, there is still work to be done, including granting each of us the right to a clean and healthy environment through the proposed Green Constitutional Amendment. I look forward to continuing to work to move New Jersey forward. It is, therefore, an honor to have my efforts recognized by being named one of Clean Water Action's environmental heroes. Thank you for your support."

“Our state is faced with a number of environmental challenges; addressing these challenges is a core concern for all of our residents. I have been proud to stand for environmental justice and for clean air and water for our communities,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. www.cleanwater.org/nj

Eric Benson
Amy Goldsmith