Asthma attacks are a leading health problem for more than 165,000 children in the Garden State, according to Environment New Jersey, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization.
That statistic coupled with Gov. Chris Christie's decision to remove New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has motivated the group to host a rally from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 on the north side of the Westfield train, where Elm Street and North Avenue intersect.
The event, Westfield Rally for Our Kids’ Future, hopes to encourage citizens to call on legislators to block the Governor’s plan to leave the RGGI program and urge them to fight for stronger clean energy policies.
The rally commences just 90 minutes after Christie begins his town hall meeting at the Westfield Armory. Organizers said they plan to attend the meeting and ask the governor about RGGI if possible.
"The Governor's primary argument has been that RGGI is not working and costing residents money; quite the contrary," said Dan DeRosa, field organizer for ENJ. "According to an independent report released by the Analysis Group, RGGI has added $151 million dollars to New Jersey's economy and supported 1,772 local jobs in New Jersey."
The RGGI program caps power plant pollution, requires polluters to pay for fouling our air, and invests that money in clean energy, according to ENJ.
"Senator (Tom) Kean Jr. (R-21) voted the wrong way and that's why we are coming to Westfield to encourage him to be a leader on clean air and clean energy," DeRosa said. "The senator has a history of leading on environmental issues and RGGI should be no exception. We're encouraged by the fact that his father, former Governor Kean, came out in support of RGGI in the fall saying it was a 'shame' that Gov. Christie had pulled the state out of RGGI."
Organizers said they are also calling on Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, who represent District 21, to fight for stronger clean energy policies.
Stephanie Quinton, an ENJ intern who plans to attend the rally, said removing New Jersey from the RGGI would "allow power plants to create more pollution that is put into our air supply."
"I am a local resident of Westfield and environmental activist," she said. "I love my community and my state and would not want to see it deteriorate due to lack of environmentally-friendly initiatives."
The rally is the first of the year but comes on the heels of four successful rallies in Asbury Park (District 11), Princeton (District 16), Rutherford (District 33), and Ridgewood (District 40) in the fall, DeRosa said.
As of Monday afternoon, between 20 and 30 citizens are expected at the rally along with speakers from environmental and concerned groups from across the state, organizers said.
All are welcome. Anyone interested in joining the rally should RSVP to attend the event.