MADISON – The Democratic candidates for mayor and Borough Council pointed to their track record on climate action in a recent joint statement.
The candidates noted an Aug. 3 Madison Eagle editorial titled “Climate Change has hit home,” which argues that: “there can be no doubt that global warming is real, and that significant actions by all nations is no longer optional.” After reciting a litany of recent local and national “weather horror stories,” the editorial noted that “the World Health Organization (WHO) calls climate change ‘the biggest health threat facing humanity.’”
“We agree and see the urgency to act with so many in our community doing their part personally to combat climate change and urging the borough to prioritize this,” stated Madison Democratic candidates Mayor Robert Conley, Councilmen Robert Landrigan and John Forte, and Planning Board member and Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Chair Melissa Honohan.
Landrigan and Forte are in a three-way race with Republican Michael Martinez for two, three-year seats on the council on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Conley is running unopposed for a fourth, four-year term as mayor, while Honohan is running unopposed to serve the final year of former Councilwoman Debra Coen’s unexpired term.
Honohan said action “must be taken not just nationally, but at all levels of government. To meet this challenge, a Climate Action Process was developed for Madison by the borough’s Climate Action Ad Hoc Committee under the leadership of Mayor Bob Conley and Council Member Rachel Ehrlich.”
Madison’s Climate Action Process was formalized in January 2023 with the adoption of the borough’s climate action resolution – adoption that faced sparse, but vocal opposition from prominent members of the Madison Republican Committee, the Democrats noted in the joint statement.
“The Climate Action Process sets out specific, measurable, and achievable resiliency and energy-related goals for the borough and puts Madison in a leadership role in achieving the state-wide climate action goals established in the Global Warming Response Act of 2007 (GWRA) and the NJ Energy Master Plan at the municipal level,” said Landrigan and Forte.
“As Mayor Conley challenged the council back in January 2022: ‘There are 564 municipalities in the state of New Jersey, (and) we need to set the trend here.’ And that is what we are doing.”
Honohan said that leadership is being recognized.
“Madison was recently named a ‘Destination Electric community’ by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) due to the prevalence of electric car charging stations throughout the town,” she noted. “Madison is one of only four New Jersey cities to earn this designation.”
The four candidates all noted that “even prior to adopting the Climate Action Resolution, the borough had incorporated energy efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency in the 2020 rewrite of the Master Plan, which included positive public input. Madison has also installed public EV (electric vehicle) chargers and LED street lighting throughout the borough and has developed initial plans for smart energy metering and solar power generation” at the Madison Recreation Complex and Department of Public Works.
The Democrats cited a few examples of the specific and measurable energy and resiliency goals established by the Climate Action Process. The candidates noted these do not represent mandates for anyone; they are goals.
The goals include:
• Decrease Madison’s total carbon footprint by 80 percent from 140,000 tons in 2018 to 28,000 tons by 2050 (the major sources being fossil fuels in buildings and vehicles);
• Have 25 percent of total non-emergency, light-duty municipal vehicle mileage provided by plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) by 2025 and 100 percent by 2035. Again, this is a goal not a mandate. If a PEV is not available that satisfies the requirements of the borough department, a traditionally powered (or possibly hybrid) vehicle that meets the requirements will be purchased.
Currently Madison has two all-electric Chevrolet Bolts in use by the Madison Building Department, with a third just delivered this month. In addition, the Madison Police Department is already using several hybrid vehicles. As reported at the Aug. 8 Borough Council meeting, 75 percent of the new police cruisers that have been ordered by the Madison Police Department over the past two years have been hybrid vehicles.
• Achieve 1,200 electric vehicles (EVs) owned town-wide by 2025 and 1,000 residences with rooftop solar power by 2050. There were 412 EVs in Madison as of June 2023, and there are currently about 100 rooftop solar installations.
• Generate 5 percent of electricity from in-town municipal, school, and commercial solar assets by 2050.
The borough’s first solar generation project will be the construction of solar carports at the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC). The project is expected to generate 850,000 kilowatt hours per year or enough electricity for 95 average homes as well as provide shade for cars parked there.
With federal incentives and New Jersey Solar Renewable Energy Credits as well as savings in wholesale energy purchases and capacity and transmission costs, the project is expected to break even in about eight years according to an analysis presented by borough Chief Financial officer Jim Burnet in May.
• Continue to meet or exceed state standards for the renewable content of purchased power; and
• Decrease the effects of increased precipitation and stormwater, an important resiliency goal to help our community adapt to a changed climate. Madison was awarded a $20,000 grant in May for Green Infrastructure Planning and Implementation, employing strategies to increase aquifer recharge and reduce surface flooding.
In addition to establishing its stated goals, the Climate Action Process recommends an annual cycle that assesses measured progress towards goals, develops new or adjusted actions, and presents to the borough council these new or modified actions for consideration and adoption.
Madison residents can learn more about the Climate Action Process by accessing the 2022 Climate Action Report at https://tinyurl.com/2nbzyppz.
Conley, Landrigan, Forte and Honohan are running together as a team under the slogan: “Your Voice. Madison’s Future. Leading with Experience.”