The New Jersey Environmental Federation endorsed Chris Christie in his bid for governor in 2009, but the group has reversed course and has decided to endorse challenger Barbara Buono this year. NJEF Campaign Director David Pringle told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the organization is disappointed with the way Christie has handled environmental issues during his tenure and has found a better environmental choice in Buono.
According to Pringle, Christie has broken 80 percent of the campaign promises he made about the environment. One major issue Pringle cited is that Christie has appointed people who want to appeal the law they’re charged with implementing with regard to the drinking water in the Highlands.
“Their job is to implement the Highlands Act to protect the state’s drinking water. More than half the state’s drinking water comes from the Highlands. New Jersey’s three largest businesses, industries rely on Highlands water. We need that for the environment and the economy,” Pringle explained.
Pringle said he believes Christie is playing to the right wing of the Republican Party and his base and that’s why he has made certain appointments. Pringle also criticized Christie for his response to global warming and climate change.
According to Pringle, jobs and the environment go together and Christie taking more than $800 million from the Clean Energy Fund resulted in loss of clean energy jobs. “For every million dollars invested in clean energy, you get 10 jobs. So by raiding that money, he took 6,400 jobs away from New Jerseyans,” Pringle said. “He had specifically committed to be a vigorous implementer of clean energy and global warming solutions and he’s done the total opposite.”
Pringle said the governor has stopped talking to the NJEF in the past couple years because of their criticisms. “We’ll call him right when he’s right and we’ll call him wrong when he’s wrong. You might notice that this governor doesn’t like being called wrong,” he said.
Other individuals involved in environmental issues have criticized the NJEF, including Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel who said the NJEF should have called Christie out sooner. Pringle said the governor is responsible for his own actions and that the environmental groups were united in 2009 that they didn’t want to see Gov. Jon Corzine get reelected.
“We all expressed it differently. We endorsed Christie. Sierra Club endorsed Daggett and Environment New Jersey stayed out. We expressed it differently. As Jeff said back in 2009, we took a leap of faith. We went on what the governor promised to do,” Pringle said. “We knew we were taking a risk. Candidates and politicians break promises, and boy did he do that.”
While Pringle said the NJEF doesn’t regret the 2009 decision, it does regret what Christie has done as governor.
When asked if he believes the state is worse off now than it would have been had Corzine been reelected, Pringle said he couldn’t say because it was a hypothetical situation and he doesn’t know what Corzine would or would not have done.
“I can tell you that there are 6,400 people that don’t have jobs because of the governor’s raids on clean energy. And more importantly, this isn’t just about what the governor hasn’t done or what he has done, but what the alternative is,” he said.
Pringle said Buono offers a much better alternative on environmental issues because she has a record in public office. He also believes she has a chance to beat Christie even though she’s behind in the polls. “The only poll that matters is election day. A month is a lifetime in politics. George Bush Sr. was in the 90s before he lost reelection,” Pringle said.
Buono has a proven record on the environment, according to Pringle. He said the NJEF believes she is the better candidate to run the Garden State.
“She’s been in the legislature for years. She has been a champion both on advancing environmental protections and fighting rollbacks,” Pringle said. “From the very first day in the 1990s on the Clean Water Now Campaign, she’s championed and been the prime sponsor of legislation, gotten good laws on the books like the School Integrated Pest Management Act in 2002, the Global Warming Response Act in 2007 and she’s been one of the chief critics — and rightfully so — of the governor’s policies that are rolling back critical safeguards.”