When Phil Murphy ran for governor in 2017 he vowed to immediately stop using money from New Jersey’s Clean Energy Fund to fill unrelated budget gaps. The money is intended to support the state’s clean energy economy.

His promise has not been kept, not by a long shot.

Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, said a just-completed analysis shows the Murphy administration raiding $500 million from the fund.

Where the Clean Energy money is going

A report entitled Stop the Raids: The Clean Energy Fund Should Fund Clean Energy, prepared by New Jersey Policy Perspective, finds since 2017 that money has been diverted to pay for many other unrelated state programs and services it was never intended for.

O’Malley and several other environmental, labor, health and advocacy groups are  "asking the Murphy administration and the governor to directly end these clean energy raids in this current year’s fiscal budget. This is the year to do it.”

Anjuli Ramos-Busot, the state director for the New Jersey Sierra Club, said "we demand the fund gets used for its intended purpose, clean energy, and for our government to use the ratepayer's money responsibly."

Dena Mottola Jaborska, the executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said “the pain of climate change will be shouldered primarily by low- and moderate-income families. New Jersey cannot abandon these residents by diverting essential funds away from fighting the growing climate catastrophe simply to plug budget holes.”

O’Malley said every New Jersey ratepayer winds up paying roughly $60 a year into the Clean Energy Fund because a portion of their utility bill supports the Fund, which was established more than 20 years ago “to do exactly what it sounds like, provide incentives to move towards a clean, renewable energy future for the state.”

Blue Planet Studio GettyImages
Blue Planet Studio GettyImages

Energy efficiency

He said currently more than $100 million a year from the Fund “goes towards energy efficiency programs, and that includes energy efficiency weatherization programs for low income households, and includes business energy efficiency programs.”

When asked to comment on the plea by environmental groups to stop raiding the Clean Energy Fund a spokesperson for the governor declined to do so.

O’Malley pointed out that the establishment of the Clean Energy Fund helped to stand up New Jersey’s solar market and make the Garden State a national solar leader, but early on state leaders began to raid the fund.

Former Gov. Chris Christie David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
Former Gov. Chris Christie David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

He noted during the Chris Christie administration more than $1.5 billion was shifted out of the Fund to plug budget holes elsewhere.

The report also highlights the state’s current reliance on non-renewable energy sources, and recommends state lawmakers use the Fund for its stated goals of financing clean energy investments and incentivizing the use of renewable energy.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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