Change the Political Climate

With an unsympathetic administration in Trenton the past eight years and a seemingly more antagonistic one about to take office in Washington this week, it is time to pay more attention to the environment.

Just ask former Govs. Jim Florio and Christie Todd Whitman.

The two former executives joined with the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund yesterday, launching a campaign to heighten the environmental agenda in the State House and Washington, D.C., at a time when an assault on laws to protect the nation’s air, water, and other natural resources seems to be under way.

They all called for the election of a governor with a strong conservation platform — one that will reclaim New Jersey’s status as a leader in the environment and fight any bid to roll back protections against pollution and climate change.

“There has been some slacking off in the past few years,’’ said Florio at a State House press conference, referring to an easing of state laws protecting the Pinelands, promoting clean energy, and safeguarding drinking water.

The former Democratic governor also said it is troubling President-elect Donald Trump has nominated someone (former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt) to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who does not believe in its mission or someone (former Texas Gov. Rick Perry) to lead the Department of Energy who has called for its abolition.

“This is not a partisan issue,’’ added Whitman, a Republican who also served as EPA administrator. She echoed Florio’s fears of what will happen to the agency under Trump, without directly mentioning his name.

‘He does seem committed to the fact that EPA is unnecessary,’’ Whitman said. “We will be paying a terrible price if that goes forward.’’

In the next few years, the public will have to be motivated to lobby for strong environmental initiatives on the state level, while ensuring existing protections are not weakened in Washington, both governors said.

During Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure, both Republican and Democratic governors have joined together to oppose initiatives they fear compromise the state’s stringent environmental laws. For instance, both Whitman and Florio joined former Govs. Brendan Byrne and Thomas Kean to publicly oppose a controversial pipeline project through the Pinelands.

All but Kean joined a legal action to try and block the project, which is still in litigation. Their actions were an unusual step away from the protocol in which former governors do not intercede in matters affecting a new executive.

Yesterday, Florio was particularly critical of the current administration, without mentioning Christie. He lamented the siphoning off more than $1 billion in clean-energy funds to balance the state budget and questioned the failure to get offshore wind farms up and running more than five year after a law promoting the technology was passed.

Other governors have been critical of efforts by the Christie administration to overhaul the state’s flood-control rules, asserting it could cause more pollution in New Jersey’s waterways.

In launching what it’s calling its “Green in ‘17” campaign, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters said it would seek to raise awareness in five key areas: climate change, public transportation, drinking water, land preservation, and urban industrialization.

Probably the league’s most ambitious goal is to have the state get 100 percent of its energy from cleaner sources by 2050. That is even more ambitious than a target that sets an 80 percent goal by the same date that has stalled in the Legislature.

The group has budgeted $750,000 for the campaign, according to Ed Potosnak, executive director of the fund.