‘Go for gold’

North Bergen residents call for higher Sustainable Jersey certification

The North Bergen green team in action, a requirement to receive Sustainable Jersey certification.
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The North Bergen green team in action, a requirement to receive Sustainable Jersey certification.

Is Bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey good enough for North Bergen? No, according to some residents.

At the August meeting of the North Bergen Board of Commissioners, Stephanie Martinez thanked the commissioners and the township for “their actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonizing local energy systems.”

She continued: “But we are in code red for humanity, and we need to transition to renewable energy as soon as possible. Options are available.”

Martinez said other Hudson County municipalities have embraced fossil fuel alternatives.

“Jersey City and Hoboken are already in the transition of renewable and clean energy,” Martinez said. “So whether it be working with utilities, or delivering benefits to low-income communities, anything to start investing in clean energy is really important. Most importantly, we need to see real ambitious targets.”

Bronze certification

Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that the township has decreased carbon emissions, getting a bronze medal for environmental issues.

“We’re one of few communities that received an award recently,” Sacco said. “The overall agencies looking at these issues are happy with what we’ve done environmentally in the community. I think there’s only like 50 communities that received the Bronze certification.”

Township Administrator Janet Castro added that North Bergen has received Bronze certification for four years in a row.

“We have to keep that up every year, it’s not like we can just do it one year, get the certification, and then it’s over,” she said.

According to Castro, the township works with a consultant who consistently assesses various renewable energy sources.

The lowest ranking?

Martinez took issue with the Bronze certification: “I believe that’s the lowest ranking.”

Sacco countered that very few municipalities have gotten an award from Sustainable Jersey.

Martinez said there were 155 Bronze certified municipalities, 64 Silver, and 1 Gold Star.

Sacco said that out of over 700 municipalities, less than 200 received any certification, and North Bergen was among those.

“Like in the Olympics, yeah, I’d rather get the Gold,” Sacco said. “But the fact that we have the Bronze medal for the last four years tells us that we’re working in the right direction.”

Green teams at work

“It says we have green teams,” Martinez said, reviewing Sustainable Jersey requirements for Bronze certification. “The green team has not been active since like 2019, I believe. We should have that green team more active.”

Castro interjected that the internal team at the township, which consists of some external members including residents, has been active amid the pandemic.

“We’re very active with the schools,” Castro said. “Unfortunately schools have been closed or doing remote work, so we have not been able to conduct a lot of those green activities that we typically do. But we do meet, and it is still active.”

Castro said she would forward information to her regarding joining the green team.

Pushing for clean energy

Hailey Benson addressed the board about switching to a clean energy provider instead of PSE&G.

“Jersey City and Hoboken are already on [clean energy],” Benson said, adding that the township in the past had issues with the cost, but Sacco pointed to the opt-in aspect of the proposed program as the issue.

“The opt-in opt-out program is a disaster,” Sacco said. “You don’t know what it’s like to try to force something on people. They say I didn’t request this, I didn’t ask you to do that. That’s what the problem is, where it’s the opt-in or opt-out. If it were very simple, there’d be no problem with it taking place everywhere.”

“I do understand that you want to keep the peace in the community,” Benson said. “But I think it’s actually more responsible for us to be on top of clean energy before it’s unbreathable in our area.”

Doing more

Benson urged North Bergen to join other towns in the county in adopting the complete use of clean and renewable energy.

“Jersey City and Hoboken are already on top of this,” Benson said. “West New York is working toward it, and I think it would be really, really positive in the long run to be able to show that we care.”

Benson also called on the township to seek a higher level of Sustainable Jersey certification.

“I urge you guys to move up on that rank, which would be super awesome,” Benson said. “People would really appreciate it.”

Benson said she would bring more information about communities that are part of the program to the next meeting and get signatures from North Bergen residents gauging their interest in the program.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.