Both Houses full steam ahead on key environmental legislation

TRENTON – Lawmakers say they’ve found a way to backfill more than $400 million for energy-related projects the Christie administration pulled from the budget to stem the flow of red ink.

The Assembly this afternoon gave final legislative approval to a bill that gives the green light to the state Economic Development Authority to sell bonds that’ll raise money for homeowners to tap into to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes – from solar panels to new doors, boilers and insulation.

The measure was part of a package of environmental bills that flowed through the Senate today. One of them – a so-called Blue Acres bill – allows towns buy up homes and other buildings in flood plains using open space funding.

“It was a big day for the environment,” the New Jersey Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel said outside the Senate immediately after the votes.

The chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee emerged from his session buoyed by the Assembly’s action down the hall, where it passed 45-25-1.

“This is a wonderful bill,” Sen. Robert Smith, D-17, Piscataway, said of the so-called Pace energy legislation (S1406/A2502). “You start with the fact that you have strong collateral in the home and it’s the cheapest money available,” he added of the program. “And it creates lots of jobs.”

The Senate passed the measure 26-8 back in June.

Under the bill, homeowners repay their municipalities quarterly over a period of ten years, enjoying energy savings all the while.

The Blue Acres legislation, meanwhile, allows towns with the consent of local voters to tap into their open space funds to buy up buildings in areas prone to flooding and to open that ground up to open space and recreational uses.

The bill, (S3078), passed unanimously and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“After the twin ravages of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, more and more residents and municipal leaders have realized that the cycle of flooding and rebuilding is no longer worth it and that there needs to be a way out,” said the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Bob Gordon, D-38, Fair Lawn. “… towns can help homeowners out of this vicious cycle while also returning land to its natural state,” acting as a buffer for still other homes.

Both Houses full steam ahead on key environmental legislation