On Monday, May 21, more than 20 Newark clergy and more than 50 other community members gathered at Mount Olivet Baptist Church to bless electric vehicles and for a symposium about the public health and environmental benefits of electric transportation.

Local pastors Rev. Ronald Tuff and Pastor Bryant R. Ali led an Electric Vehicle (EV) Blessing Ceremony for eight community members’ electric cars, and for charging stations provided by Chargepoint and Greenspot. They were joined at the interfaith ceremony by Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ, and Imam Saffet Catovic, Muslim chaplain at Drew University and a member of the Islamic Society of North America’s Green Mosque Initiative.

Pastor Bryant Ali reflected on the environmental health challenges facing Newark, and how EV technology could represent part of the solution. “Many times we talk about environmental justice, but that also includes economic justice … As we gather as a community to educate ourselves about the best opportunities for our children, for our future, we understand the ways electrified transportation could help Port Newark, Newark Airport, and similar parts of the state.”

At the conclusion of the symposium, participants released a statement calling on elected officials to adopt policies to dramatically accelerate the installation of electric transportation infrastructure across New Jersey, while ensuring that such legislation prioritizes reducing air pollution and creating jobs in cities and other over-polluted areas. The statement called on these same leaders to develop legislation and plans to electrify cargo handling equipment and other sources of air pollution at Ports Newark and Elizabeth, to electrify NJ Transit buses and diesel-powered construction equipment used in our cities, and to expand state rebates and subsidies that ensure all New Jersey households have access to electric vehicles. The statement is being delivered to Governor Phil Murphy, NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney, NJ Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Speaker of the NJ General Assembly Craig Coughlin, NJ General Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett, and NJ Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso.

The community gathering enabled EV owners and charging station firms to educate faith leaders about the advantages of electric cars, buses, and cargo handling equipment, and to improve public understanding and support for EV technology throughout the state. Each presentation prompted robust Q&A with community members, who were eager to learn about the benefits and challenges of integrating EV technology into neighborhoods like their own in Newark.

The event was co-hosted by Newark Baptist Ministers and Vicinity, GreenFaith, and the #ElectrifyNJ initiative of Jersey Renews. Electrify NJ is working to move New Jersey towards a clean-transportation, clean-air future.

Air pollution from vehicles in New Jersey causes more than $4.5 billion annually in medical problems and climate change-related damage. Fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks diminish air quality and contribute to alarmingly high asthma rates among children in Newark and other urban centers. Vehicular emissions are also responsible for over forty percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions. “These emissions contribute to hurricanes and other extreme weather events that are a dangerous threat to our communities,” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, an organizer with GreenFaith. “It’s not right that our communities, which have contributed almost nothing to creating climate change, are suffering its worst effects.”

The areas hit hardest by these damages represent low-income urban neighborhoods, including predominantly black, Latino, and immigrant communities that have been subjected to excessive pollution. The same story has been unfolding in Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, and throughout New Jersey’s metropolitan centers and ports. Electrified transportation for these historically disenfranchised communities could help create environmentally and economically sustainable jobs, while cultivating a broader culture of justice for our state.

At the symposium, GreenFaith also announced plans for a late July daylong tour of the Block Island Wind Farm, the country’s first offshore wind farm, off the Rhode Island coast. In April, the Murphy Administration announced its commitment to installing 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. “We want our faith leaders to be educated about wind power, its environmental and health benefits, and the job opportunities it will offer,” said Rev. Tuff. To learn more about the wind farm tour, please contact Brett Nadrich at +1-732-588-6162 or brett@greenfaith.org.

Lead Speakers

Reverend Ronald Tuff serves as the Urban Communities Coordinator with both GreenFaith and the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council. Born in Newark, he is now also pursuing his passion for ministry as an associate pastor at First Bethel Baptist Church in Irvington, NJ.

Pastor Bryant R. Ali, a native of Northern New Jersey, currently serves as the Pastor of New Psalmist Worship Center in Newark. Pastor Ali is also a chaplain with the Newark Police Department, a Spiritual Counselor for the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, and President for the Baptist Ministers Conference of Newark & Vicinity.

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