Joseph Fiordaliso, who was implementing one of the country’s most aggressive clean energy programs as head of New Jersey’s state utilities regulation board, has died. He was 78.
The governor’s office said Thursday that Fiordaliso died Wednesday. It didn’t provide a cause of death.
Fiordaliso, who had been president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities since 2018, often spoke of his grandchildren when describing the type of planet he hoped to leave to them — one in which green energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal help reduce the worst effects of climate change by replacing the burning of fossil fuels.
Gov. Phil Murphy called Fiordaliso, who was born in Newark, “a consummate public servant, a trusted colleague, and a good friend.”
“Joe skillfully led our work to responsibly transition to a clean energy economy while always putting the needs of consumers first,” the governor said in a news release. “He also was a key figure in our storm response efforts and in ensuring that all New Jerseyans had access to critical services like clean water, electricity, and broadband.”
Fiordaliso was rarely seen in public without wearing a lapel pin in the shape of a wind turbine, signifying his strong support for offshore wind energy development.
Murphy is trying to make New Jersey the East Coast leader in offshore wind power projects. It has already approved three wind farms, and four other projects have been proposed and are awaiting evaluation by state and federal regulators.
Jeff Tittel, a longtime environmentalist, worked with Fiordaliso for nearly 30 years in various local and state capacities, and said his death comes at a crucial time in New Jersey’s transition away from burning fossil fuels.
“He was a dedicated public servant and fighter for clean energy,” Tittel said. “He has worked to make green energy a reality and to make energy more affordable. His passing has happened at a time when renewable energy is at a tipping point, and his leadership at this important period will be missed.”
One of Fiordaliso’s last major acts was presiding over the adoption in late July of a series of aggressive “decarbonization” efforts designed to incentivize buildings to switch from natural gas heat to electric.
Fiordaliso also angrily lashed out at those he called purveyors of disinformation against clean energy projects, including claims that the government plans to take away gas-burning stoves.
He also oversaw the rollout of electric vehicle charging stations in various parts of the state, and the conversion of some heavy-duty government vehicles from gas to electric power.