Paterson, NJ — On Wednesday, May 8, one week before an expected pivotal vote on S2252/A4819 (an omnibus bill to develop incentives and infrastructure for electric transportation across New Jersey), city and state government officials joined African-American pastors and electric vehicle business leaders at an Electric Vehicle (EV) Blessing Ceremony to call for passage of the legislation.

Paterson Mayor André Sayegh and Councilman Luis Velez stood together to champion the proposed legislation for its health, environmental and economic benefits. “This is about lungs and it’s about labor,” according to Mayor Sayegh. “We want clean air and we want green jobs, and Paterson has to be on the forefront of this movement.”

Emphasizing the urgency of addressing air pollution and climate change and the creation of green jobs for urban communities, Rev. Dr. Randall Lassiter, Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, welcomed more than 60 community members to participate in the ceremony. “We are here not only for the educational and economic opportunity, but also above all else to care for the voiceless, the blind, and the sick. This is the pattern of Jesus in 2019, in line with the mission of the Gospels. What we are doing here is coming together to help further the Lord’s work.”

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Air pollution from vehicles in New Jersey causes more than $4.5 billion annually in medical problems and climate change-related damage, with vehicular emissions being responsible for over forty percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Numerous studies have shown that the areas hit hardest by these climate and air pollution damages are communities of color and low-income urban neighborhoods.

In response, religious leaders have been working with GreenFaith and the Jersey Renews coalition of environmental, labor and community organizations to press for ambitious, equitable electric transport policy.  Jersey Renews members have organized events in Newark, Jersey City, Ports Newark and Elizabeth, and in other metropolitan centers and ports, with public health concerns at the heart of their unified call for strong legislation. “Breath is life,” said Pastor Bryant R. Ali, President of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Newark & Vicinity, which previously hosted an EV Blessing attended by over 80 people from 20 different urban congregations.  “Newark’s residents, for example, breathe air that is fouled by vehicles on nearby major highways, streets crowded with cars, buses, thousands of truck trips daily to and from the ports Newark and Elizabeth. We need new laws now to address this devastating public health issue.”

The African American ministers emphasized that the transition to electric transport needs to include job training and creation for historically disenfranchised communities.  “Community colleges and unions are important allies in this effort,” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, a GreenFaith Organizer.

The state’s environmental community is also unified behind the call for strong electric transport laws.  “Electric vehicles are here but to be a national leader, we need the New Jersey Legislature to act this spring on electric vehicle legislation,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “By taking steps to improve our EV infrastructure and accelerate the transition to electric transportation, New Jersey can create a road map for other states to follow.”

The event was co-hosted by GreenFaith, Jersey Renews, and Calvary Baptist Church.

Partner Organizations

GreenFaith is an interfaith environmental organization whose mission is to educate, organize, and mobilize people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds to become environmental leaders. For more information, please visit: www.greenfaith.org.

Jersey Renews is a broad-based coalition of labor, faith, community, and environmental organizations urging our elected officials to act now for environmental justice, clean renewable energy, good jobs, and protections for workers and communities. For more information, please visit: www.jerseyrenews.org