Two dozen N.J. elected officials urge Murphy to sue oil companies
A bipartisan group of two dozen New Jersey elected officials, from a former governor to small town council members, are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to sue oil and gas companies over the impacts of climate change.
The group took out a full-page ad in Thursday’s editions of The Star-Ledger in an effort to publicly pressure Murphy into taking action. The ad argues that New Jersey will need $25 billion to protect against sea level rise alone — a figure that comes from the advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity — and pushes for the governor to force oil companies to pay up.
“Our state will need to spend $25 billion to protect our families, homes, and businesses from sea level rise — and that’s just the beginning,” the ad reads. “New Jerseyans want Governor Murphy to take oil and gas companies to court to make them pay their fair share.”
The message is lead by former Gov. Richard Codey, a Democrat who now represents parts of Essex County in the state Senate, and seven other state lawmakers: state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset; state Sen. Joseph Cryan, D-Union; state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex; Assemblywoman Linda Carter, D-Union; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex; Assemblyman Jamel Holley, D-Union; and Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex.
The state lawmakers are joined by freeholders from Atlantic and Union counties; the mayors of Dunellen, Kenilworth, Roselle Park, Garwood and Fanwood; and local council members from nine different towns.
The officials were joined by 68 different organizations, including religious groups and environmental advocates.
The Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, an environmental advocacy group that is the parent organization of the Center for Climate Integrity, paid $9,900 for the ad and helped recruit the signatories, according to spokesman Mike Meno.
The Star-Ledger’s daily print readership numbered 347,000 in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. It’s an estimate of the total number of people who read a weekday issue of the print edition. The Star-Ledger is affiliated with NJ.com.
“We won’t be commenting on decisions surrounding potential litigation,” said Christine Lee, a spokeswoman for Murphy.
The ad comes after Hoboken last week became the first municipality in New Jersey to file such a lawsuit against oil companies. Hoboken’s action is being funded, in part, by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Government.
The ad uses the Hoboken lawsuit to put pressure on Murphy to act.
“Hoboken just sued Exxon and other oil and gas companies for lying about climate change and the damage they caused,” the ad reads. “Governor Murphy: Now it’s your turn.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal declined to comment on Hoboken’s lawsuit last week, but said the state is “exploring all options for protecting New Jersey residents in court.”
“Over the past two years, we’ve taken action against some of the nation’s largest polluters for the damage that they have done to New Jersey’s environment, as part of our commitment to ensuring robust environmental enforcement and promoting environmental justice,” Grewal said at the time.
In Trenton, state lawmakers are considering a resolution (SR57/AR186) that would urge Murphy and Grewal to sue oil companies for climate impacts. Officials in Atlantic County and Union County have expressed their support for that state resolution.
The Star-Ledger ad ran on the same day that Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced her state is suing 31 fossil fuel companies for their role in climate change. Elsewhere, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Minnesota also have similar lawsuits ongoing.
Sea levels in New Jersey are rising at a rate twice the global average, according to research published in December by Rutgers. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the state’s seas are expected to creep up 5.1 feet higher by 2100 than they were in 2000, up to 1.1 feet higher by 2030 and up to 2.1 feet higher by 2050.
Beyond that, climate change has already made New Jersey one of the fastest warming regions of the country. The state’s average annual temperature has already risen 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and is expected to rise 5.7 degrees by 2050, according to a report released in June by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Heat waves are expected to become more intense in New Jersey, threatening public health. Besides heat waves, higher temperatures could make it harder to breathe. As New Jersey has more hot days, there will be more chances for ozone pollution — or smog — to be created.
Michael Sol Warren may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.