Interview with Sen. Bob Menendez
Environment New Jersey
What’s the biggest fight right now to protect the environment in Washington?
Unfortunately the biggest fight seems to be protecting the Clean Air Act. The EPA has been able to come out from under the thumb of the previous Administration and finally address pollution from old, dirty Midwest coal power plants. In response, polluters and the Republican Party have tried to gut the Clean Air Act at every turn.
So far we have succeeded in fighting off these efforts and if we continue to be successful it will have tremendous health benefits for New Jersey. It will mean thousands of hospital trips avoided, thousands fewer asthma attacks, and thousands fewer premature deaths in our state alone. And the economic benefits nationally from fewer sick days and lower health care costs are measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Clean air used to be a bipartisan issue and I hope some day soon it is again.
Why do you think is the environment important?
The environment affects everyone…it’s about preserving nature and about protecting people. It is very important we remember to talk about both aspects because they are really both sides of the same coin. Without a healthy environment it is difficult to have healthy people and a rich quality of life.
Everyone supports cleaner air in New Jersey. Why is this such a contentious issue in Washington?
Well…some of the votes in the House make me wonder if everyone in New Jersey is on the same page on clean air. But regardless I think the power of polluter money is the only logical answer as to why this issue has become controversial in Washington. The disinformation machine has muddied the waters sufficiently to give politicians cover for having truly radical and outrageous views about air pollution.
What’s your proudest moment from your years in public service in working to protect the environment?
There are many, but I will give you two. First, was helping get the solar investment tax credit extended until 2016. That has provided long term incentives that have allowed solar to flourish in New Jersey and will for years to come. Second, securing passage and funding for my Energy Efficiency Block Grant program. The program provided over $3 billion to local communities to invest in ways to save energy, create jobs, and lower energy bills. Seeing local leaders using these resources to do incredible things has been a real honor.
What are your top environmental priorities in Washington?
Right now my priorities are protecting New Jersey from coastal oil drilling, preserving the Clean Air Act, ending oil subsidies, preserving open space, weaning ourselves off oil, and fighting climate change. There is certainly a lot of work to do!