The fight against climate catastrophe needs us to win at every level. We’re doing that in New Jersey, by educating local communities about the kind of visionary clean energy policies we need, and then organizing collective political action to achieve them.
On November 5, our Food & Water Watch organizers and local partners won another big victory. By an overwhelming 63 to 37 margin, Piscataway residents voted in favor of a special ballot question to create a township-wide 100 percent renewable energy aggregation program.
This is a win for our climate, a win for clean air, and a win for cost savings; once this program is underway, Piscataway residents will save money every month on their energy bills.
Not only was this a sizable margin of victory, it’s also a historically significant win: It was the first time in New Jersey history that voters directly approved the creation of such a program. And we think voters in other towns in New Jersey are going to want to be next in line.
There’s no doubt that saving money by switching to renewable energy is a good idea. But good ideas don’t win elections on their own. This victory took serious organizing. Earlier this year, Food & Water Watch got to work with a group of local residents to form the Clean Air Piscataway campaign. We went door to door to collect over 1,400 petitions that called on the Township Council to create a municipal energy aggregation program that would reach the 100 percent renewable goal by the year 2035.
When we presented these signatures to them back in July, the council had the option to vote in favor of creating the program. Thanks to a state law called the Government Energy Aggregation Act, municipalities can purchase energy at discounted bulk rates, and set guidelines about the sources of electricity.
But instead of taking that step, the council decided to leave the matter up to voters. They also passed a separate ordinance that would create a community energy program with no specific renewable goals. We wanted the chance to bring the strongest possible program to Piscataway— so we got back to work. We hit the streets one more time, educating residents about the benefits of a 100 percent renewable energy program: Clean air, clean energy, and lower prices.
Our Food & Water Watch organizing team led an extensive door-to-door canvass, talking with over 5,000 voters during the three weeks leading up to the election. And on election night we saw 11 months of hard work pay off, as Piscataway residents overwhelmingly approved our 100% renewable energy referendum.
We didn’t have to look very far to show them how it would work; right next door in New Brunswick, we passed the first 100 percent clean energy program in New Jersey. Food & Water Watch organizers gathered petitions alongside residents and presented them to the City Council. Instead of going to ballot, the council got to work creating the program, which is already saving city residents money on their monthly bills.
This the kind of community action we need to see everywhere if we are going to protect clean air and a healthy, livable future. The people of Piscataway got organized, educated their neighbors, and won big at the ballot box. These are campaigns that go beyond merely putting nice words on paper; they represent real action that will have real impact on New Jersey communities.
So… who’s next?!