Chivukula: Hearing to shine spotlight on N.J. post-Sandy, Obama climate plan

TRENTON – To Upendra Chivukula, Superstorm Sandy’s arrival last year was an alarm clock going off, but he fears New Jersey hit the snooze alarm, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

The Assemblyman who chairs the Telecommunications and Utilities Committee is convening a hearing Thursday to air concerns over climate change in the wake of the devastating storm that hammered New Jersey nearly one year ago.

“I want to educate and make people aware that we can take personal responsibility and make a difference,’’ said Chivukula, who also wants to emphasize at the hearing his long-held belief that the state made a mistake when it pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative two years ago.

“What a blunder we have committed by not continuing in the program,” he said. Gov. Chris Christie yanked New Jersey from RGGI, saying the cap and trade program – limiting emissions and permitting quota trades – was not accomplishing what market forces could.

Chivukula believes the state compounded its energy missteps when the administration began taking clean energy funds for other uses.

“There is $800 million which could have been put to use,” he said.

To further illustrate his fears, he pointed out that according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, daily levels of carbon dioxide have surpassed 400 parts per million, and the last time that happened was more than three million years ago when humans were not around.

“The bottom line,’’ he said, “is that the population is growing, traffic is increasing, and in spite of all our regulations we are still producing a lot of carbon dioxide.”

The hearing also will serve to highlight President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan that, among other things, requires the country to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020, sets energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, and have enough renewable energy projects like wind and solar on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.

Sandy, Chivukula said, was a wakeup call that he hopes to keep in the forefront through a venue such as Thursday’s hearing, in which he wants to attempt yet again to convince the administration to reverse course on RGGI.

“I’m an optimist, and there’s always hope,’’ he said.   Chivukula is also a scientist, experienced in nuclear engineering, and he sees the solutions not as pie in the sky, but as down to earth achievable if the will exists, not as something other countries must undertake, but as something everyone has a stake in.

“Why did 15-foot surges take place in Hoboken?” he asked. “These things are not very common. Why did they happen?” Chivukula: Hearing to shine spotlight on N.J. post-Sandy, Obama climate plan