The Biden administration is facing a new lawsuit from an unlikely source – the very blue state of New Jersey.
Late last week, Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor of the Garden State, said that the state has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government regarding the approval of a plan made by New York to reduce congestion of traffic.
The suit was filed against the Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation. It accuses the agencies of violating different environmental laws.
Back in May, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York had a plan approved by the FHWA that will increase the fee that is charged to commuters who enter into Manhattan. The idea behind the proposal was to improve the air quality of the city while also reducing traffic congestion.
But, the plan isn’t one that New Jersey likes.
In a statement released on Friday, Murphy said:
“After refusing to conduct a full environmental review of the MTA’s poorly designed tolling program, the FHWA has unlawfully fast-tracked the agency’s attempt to line its own coffers at the expense of New Jersey families. The costs of standing idly by while the MTA uses New Jersey residents to help balance its budget sheets are more than economic.”
One of Murphy’s biggest concerns, according to his statement, is that the plan the MTA put forth would divert traffic as well as shift the pollution to communities in New Jersey that are already very vulnerable.
“Today, we stand as a unified front against this reckless scheme and reaffirm our commitment to combat the unjust taxation of our hard-working residents by other states.”
Murphy said that the MTA’s plan actually violates the environmental justice agenda that President Joe Biden has put forward, as well as the Justice40 initiative. That requires that 40% of some federal investments have to flow to the disadvantaged communities that are “marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.”
The FHWA sent an approval letter to officials in New York at the beginning of May after releasing the final environmental assessment. The agency also said that it determined it met all the statutory thresholds so that it could move forward.
New York is scheduled to implement the proposal next year. All commuters who are entering either downtown or midtown Manhattan may have to pay a fee of as much as $23 for peak hours or $12 during off-peak hours. The state projects that the plan will boost revenue in the state by roughly $1 billion.
Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, praised the plan because it would help clean the air of some of the city’s most polluted communities. Yet, New Jersey officials believe it’s just going to just shift the problem to their state.
As Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey said:
“As the senior senator of New Jersey, I have made it abundantly clear that it’s unacceptable for New York to try balancing its budget on the backs of New Jersey commuters. Their proposed congestion tax scheme is nothing more than a shakedown and must be defeated.”