June 9, 2020

DEP Snapshot: It’s 1991,
Environment Remains the Focus Through Merger and New Energy Master Plan

(20/S022) – What’s in a name?

For Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it was a surname that forbade their young love.

Environment Remains the Focus
For jeansmaker Calvin Klein, whose famous spokeswoman uttered the unforgettable phrase “… what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing,” it was soaring sales.

For Twiggy, Kreskin, Madonna, Shaq and many others known simply by mononymous monikers (or one-word names), it is fame.

The DEP has seen its name change three times:

  • When the department was created on April 22, 1970, it was christened the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Twenty-one years later, when it was merged with the Board of Public Utilities in 1991, the name would expand to the Department of Environmental Protection and Energy. It was a change that would last three scant years.
  • A reorganization plan in 1994 reversed the merger, sending the BPU back to its former position in Treasury, and, like a divorcée dropping her ex’s last name, the department would shed “and Energy” to once again simply be known as the DEP.

And now, a look at 1991 …

In 1991, the Department merged with the Board of Public Utilities and became the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE). An Office of Energy was created to assist with the state’s adoption of a new Energy Master Plan.

The plan directed the state to commit to safe, secure and reliable energy sources and supplies, to protect natural resources through wise and efficient energy use, and to promote the reduction of energy use. Collaborators on the 1991 Energy Master Plan included seven state departments, state planners and regulators, utilities, alternative power producers, energy equipment vendors and service providers, public interest groups and energy users.

Public hearings were held and more than 500 people attended, with more than 80 groups and individuals providing written comments. The Governor’s Advisory Council on energy planning and conservation also was reinstated. Additionally, the new Office of Energy oversaw 165 ongoing grants for energy conservation projects, totaling about $15 million, and awarded 40 new grants of $2.9 million.

Then-Gov. James Florio had spoken about the need for an Energy Master Plan in October 1990, several months after Iraq invaded Kuwait. During a press conference, he said:

“Recent events in the Persian Gulf have made it clear that we need to do some serious thinking about how to keep New Jersey’s energy supply secure and affordable … Already higher prices are making people concerned. A barrel of oil costs twice what it did at the beginning of the summer.

“These are not abstract issues. We’re talking about senior citizens worried about whether they can afford heating oil prices on a fixed income in a cold winter. About working couples having their carefully planned weekly budgets blown apart by higher prices at the gas pump. It’s about people having to be at the mercy of events far, far away. And about what we can do to stand up for ourselves.”