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Combating climate change is a ‘moral obligation,’ BPU commissioner tells Morristown audience

'MORAL OBLIGATION' : State BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso told a Morristown audience that citizens must act now to curb climate change. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Residents have a moral obligation to minimize climate change, Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso of the state Board of Public Utilities told a Morristown audience on Sunday.

“We’re talking about a severe situation that you and I, and our society in general, has a moral obligation –moral– to do the best we can to minimize climate change,” Fiordaliso said at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.

He spoke at a presentation by the BPU’s New Jersey Clean Energy Program. The 90-minute seminar described state rebates and subsidized loans for homeowners who upgrade their home heating and cooling systems, and who replace old washers, dryers and air conditioners with energy efficient models.

Michael Rutkowski of the NJ Clean Energy Program speaks at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, Jan. 14, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

People can start reducing their carbon footprint with simple steps, such as switching to LED lights and trimming their energy consumption, Fiordaliso said.

Citing concerns for the world his four young grandchildren will inherit, the commissioner continued:

“We have a moral obligation to make our earth better, and to walk gently…on this earth. Because as far as I know…there is no other piece of real estate we can live on in the universe. This is it. It’s all we’ve got.”

Michael Rutkowski of the NJ Clean Energy Program speaks at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, Jan. 14, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The former Livingston mayor said he recently overheard someone refer to our frosty weather and scoff at climate change.

Yet if scientists’ predictions are “just a little bit correct” about rising sea levels from warmer temperatures, “Miami Beach is gone. We won’t see an Atlantic City again,” Fiordaliso said.

Morris Township homeowner Dan Falkner discusses home energy improvements he made with state help. Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

“What climate change really means is extremes. That’s what it means. And we’ve noticed more severe storms, more variation in temperatures. We’re experiencing some sea level rise. And if we don’t do something, soon…we’re going to miss an opportunity to hopefully minimize the effects of climate change,” he said.

New Jersey has made great strides to reduce carbon emissions, and boasts some of the cleanest air in the country, Fiordaliso said.

When the state’s Clean Energy Program began in 2000, there were only six solar power installations here; New Jersey now has more than 100,000, added the commissioner, a former educator who has served on the bi-partisan board since 2005.

James Stevenson of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship welcomes audience to Presbyterian Church for a talk on home energy conservation. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The BPU regulates telecom-, electric-, gas- and private water utilities.

A “societal benefits” surcharge on residents’ energy bills funds the Clean Energy Program, said Michael Rutkowski, the program’s account manager. Residents can apply for rebates of $50- to $300 on purchases of Energy Star-rated appliances.

The state also will pay for recycling of inefficient working appliances, including air conditioners and dehumidifiers, Furnaces, boilers and water heaters can fetch rebates of up to $950.

And the state will pay up to $4,000, and provide interest-free loans of up to $10,000, for comprehensive home energy improvements that qualify, said Rutkowski, referring the audience to the program’s website for details.

One hundred contractors participate. Doing your homework to find the right one makes all the difference, according to Dan Falkner of Morris Township.

Falkner said he shaved up to 30 percent from his energy bills by upgrading his attic insulation and installing a high-tech, tank-less water heater, after a thorough “energy audit” of his 1960s-vintage home.

“I’m a huge proponent of this program,” said the former Navy chopper pilot. “It was a win-win for everyone.”

The talk was presented by the Green Faith Initiative of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, the Green Earth Ministry of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, and the nonprofit Sustainable Morristown.

Preysbyterian Pastor David Smazik and his wife Ann were joined by Morris Township Committeewoman Cathy Wilson, congressional candidate Mitchell Cobert of Morristown, Sustainable Morristown President Lauren Cranmer, and about two dozen others at the event.

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