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Cherry Hill, N.J.,to Plant a Climate 'SEED'

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $500,000 grant to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Cherry Hill, Highland Park, and Montclair, N.J.

The grant was provided to the township of Cherry Hill, as the formal applicant, under the Climate Showcase Communities program, which is designed to help local governments establish and implement initiatives that will help reduce GHG emissions.

The money will launch an initiative called the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Efficiency Demonstration (SEED) project, which is a partnership that includes the three communities, the New Jersey state Board of Public Utilities and the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey. The Cherry Hill project was one of 25 projects nationwide to receive grants as part of the $10 million competitive grant program.

Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator, said, “The New Jersey SEED program is part of a national showcase of community actions to address climate change. Effective programs such as the one in southern New Jersey will reduce air pollution, save consumer dollars, promote innovation, create new jobs and put New Jersey on the path to a clean energy economy,” said Judith Enck.

“The essence of this federal initiative is that local governments are uniquely suited to implement job-generating programs, projects and outreach plans that will reduce energy consumption and improve alternative transit options,” said Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt. “I firmly believe, as do our Climate Showcase municipal partners, New Jersey legislators and other public officials who supported the Township’s application for this innovative offering from the EPA, that the shift toward sustainability we must make as a global community must start in our local communities. Together, we are going to build an effective state model for engaging communities in the shift toward a sustainable future.”

The communities in this project have populations of 75,000 (Cherry Hill), 16,000 (Highland Park) and 38,000 (Montclair). Using the grant money, the partners will demonstrate that aggressive reductions in GHG emissions are possible in small and medium-sized municipalities. Possible actions are enrollment of community members and local businesses in state and federal energy-efficiency programs, efficiency retrofits of municipal buildings, updates to local codes and policies and utilizing more energy efficient vehicles in municipal fleets.

The New Jersey SEED program will also establish a protocol for leadership in small and medium-sized municipalities through state and federal support and share information on measures that reduce GHG emissions with a larger audience among residents and businesses.

The project will set aggressive GHG reduction targets and publicly report on each community’s progress. After one year, the project team will assess implementation efforts. Based on data gathered from project partners, changes will be identified and implemented to improve the program. Finally, the project partners will share lessons on the program through a state-wide workshop and regional workshops. The work will be integrated into New Jersey’s Sustainable Jersey certification program, a voluntary state program for municipalities that want to adopt sustainable policies and achieve cost savings.

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