The Mayor of Somerville Sullivan speaks about the planned rebirth of the city park and the importance of the US Senate to pass the climate crisis legislation. These investments aim to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 to slow down the effects of climate change.

By Ramona du Houx

April 28, 2022

On April 27, New Jersey Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (LD-16), Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan, and clean energy advocates convened a press conference to highlight recent extreme weather events fueled by climate change and urge the U.S. Senate to pass $550 billion in crucial climate investments passed by the House of Representatives last November. These investments aim to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 in an effort to slow down the effects of climate change. They also highlighted the work Governor Murphy has done working with the assembly and advocates to develop comprehensive climate actions and goals. This climate plan ensures frontline communities will not be left behind, as Biden’s 40 percent executive action ensures that investments in the climate solutions are shared equitably with 40 percent going to frontline communities..

“Climate change is here and driving real damage across New Jersey through increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events,” said Assemblywoman Jaffer. “The burdens of both the climate crisis and harmful pollution fall disproportionately on some of our most vulnerable and underserved communities, and confronting this is not only a matter of science but of justice as well. This opportunity for climate action and clean energy investment will make massive improvements to public health, pollution reduction, and New Jersey’s growing clean economy. We encourage the Senate to act to help us deliver on that vision.”

Climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and severe; in 2021, more than 40 percent of Americans experienced a climate change-fueled extreme weather event and communities in Central New Jersey were no exception. In recent years, Somerville — which is situated in the heart of the Raritan River Valley — experienced devastating destruction due to heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding caused by Hurricane Ida and Superstorm Sandy. These events did significant damage to infrastructure and left many in the community struggling to rebuild years after the flooding.

“We know conclusively that climate change drives up the frequency and volume of large storms that lead to flooding that our regional infrastructure isn’t prepared to handle,” said Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan. “But we also know we have an opportunity in this current moment to confront those threats by investing in our infrastructure and putting major resources behind a full clean energy transition to drastically reduce carbon pollution and create long-term energy savings for our communities in the process by making it $7,000 cheaper on average to install solar panels on rooftops.”

Climate action cannot wait. Based on the average of the past 5 years, every year that goes by without climate action, America can expect to incur an average of $148 billion in damage from extreme weather events. Speakers highlighted the impact of hurricanes and flooding on Somerville and the surrounding community. They also thanked Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) for his vote in support of the $550 billion in crucial clean energy investments passed by the House of Representatives last November, and stressed the need for the Senate to follow the House and pass the climate investments.

“Addressing the climate crisis presents the opportunity to transition to a clean energy economy in New Jersey, and that is good for our businesses and our communities,” said Brendon Shank, Vice President for Community Engagement at Asbury Park-based Solar Landscape. “Climate provisions in this federal legislation help deliver massive energy savings for Americans. Investments in clean energy will not only secure our legacy as the generation that acted on the climate crisis, they will pay dividends in long term green growth, pollution reduction, public health improvements, and concrete energy savings for consumers.”

Safe cities programs in New Jersey have made it possible for middle class and low income residents to be able to benefit from clean energy solutions that were previously not economically feasible. The climate crisis legislation that is before the US Senate would add substantially more opportunities across the country. While states can do a lot on their own, it take the collective action of the federal government to more the dial in the battle against climate change.

“After living here for seven years, I can tell you firsthand that this is a strong community, and families here trust that our leaders are working to promote a sustainable future for the region,” said Ed Seliga, Co-Chair Sustainable Somerset. “Climate change is a generational crisis, but we already know what to do to prepare communities like Somerville to not only withstand the threats of extreme weather but to thrive in a new clean economy. We need the Senate to invest big in clean energy to support communities, sustainable businesses, and families as we confront the climate crisis and improve quality of life across New Jersey.”