Jeff Tittel, advocate for New Jersey environmental causes, to retire

The director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter will step down May 1 after nearly 23 years on the job.

| 24 Mar 2021 | 05:01

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter, has announced that he will retire as of May 1.

As a constant presence among Trenton’s lawmakers, Tittel has been involved in every major environmental legislation passed in the state since 1998. He has been instrumental in helping pass landmark legislation, sometimes in the face of strong opposition. He has worked on behalf of New Jersey’s citizens, sitting with industry leaders and legislators to ensure that laws were stronger, and with fewer loopholes than they would otherwise have been.

“I’d like to thank everyone who I had the pleasure of working with over the years as NJ Sierra Club’s director and the accomplishments we made together,” Tittel said in the press release announcing his retirement. “We worked from one end of New Jersey to the other and everywhere in between whether it was working to protect the Pinelands, cleaning up toxic sites, protecting our parks, reducing climate change impacts, saving open space in the Highlands, protecting out clean water and more.

“Moving on was a hard decision,” h added. “However, given that I have spent 51 years as an environmental activist and almost 23 years as the NJ Chapter director, I felt it was time to make a change.”


Tittel may be best remembered for his memorable one-liners, for example calling an environmental commissioner a “pander bear,” wondering whether Passaic’s Great Falls might soon be called “Viagra Falls” due to the levels of pharmaceuticals in the water, or called the NJ proposed changes to the bear hunt “Murphy’s Unbearable Hunt.”

As Tittel would say: “I can take complex issues and explain them simply.”

What others are saying

Rich Isaac, Chair of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter: “Jeff has worked tirelessly in Trenton working to protect our State’s clean air, water and soil, to fight for the rights of people living in overburdened communities and to combat climate change. He will leave some very big shoes to fill.”

Rep. Congressman Frank Pallone, (NJ-06): “(Jeff) knows more about environmental issues on the state and federal level than anyone I know.”

NJ State Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg: “It’s hard to imagine the Sierra Club without Jeff Tittel. He was never shy; never retiring; never someone who is afraid to fight for the values of the Sierra Club, as well as his own. He has contributed mightily to a cleaner environment for me and for all the generations who come after us. His leadership will be missed, but I know he has built an organization that will continue to fight for a better, cleaner future.”

NJ State Senator Kip Bateman: “New Jersey’s environment is in a much better place because of Jeff’s leadership and commitment to a cleaner New Jersey. His legacy will continue but his retirement will certainly be a loss for New Jersey’s environment.”

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey: “Jeff has an unprecedented record of advocating on behalf of New Jersey’s environment. He has led environmental activism since he was a kid in Hillside, fought development in Ringwood and throughout the Highlands as a volunteer and then created a legacy of leading the New Jersey Sierra Club for more than two decades. Jeff is many things - loquacious, erudite, omnipresent, pugnacious when needed --- but no one can question his effectiveness and commitment to our environment and his record of challenging both polluters and political leaders to be better environmental stewards. He leaves a legacy of environmental activism and hard-fought victories across New Jersey from his beloved Highlands to cleaner air and water. While he is retiring from his position, I have no doubt he will stay in the good fight.”

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Jeff Tittel has been instrumental in the passage of the following landmark legislation:
Saving Sterling Forest: This 25-year battle resulted in one of the most significant open space victories in the nation. Ultimately 20,000 acres of forest were saved in one of the largest coalitions of environmental groups and government entities ever assembled. This battle serves as a model for other efforts around the country to preserve open space and protect critical wild lands.
The NJ Highlands Act – 2004: The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act is a landmark piece of legislation that put critical protections in place for one of New Jersey’s most environmentally-sensitive and ecologically important areas.
New Jersey’s Clean Car Program – 2004: Sometimes characterized as New Jersey’s “first major climate response bill,” brings New Jersey in line with California’s automobile emissions requirements, which are the strictest in the nation.
Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) – 2007, updated 2019: Under this law, the DEP must assess the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and find ways to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Tittel has been a strong voice in the ongoing rulemaking under the GWRA, known as NJ-PACT (Protecting Against Climate Threats). This is the Murphy Administration’s regulatory reform effort to modernize environmental laws.
Plastic Bag Ban: New Jersey’s bill is one of the comprehensive in the country.
Tittel’s Sierra Club career includes many other highlights. These include co-founding Empower NJ, a 120+ member coalition is working to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in New Jersey.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated the region in 2012, Tittel was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.
He was also named to FEMA’s Sandy Natural Resources Committee. He has been named one of the Most Influential People in New Jersey by the NJ Star Ledger in 2014, and for several years running has been on Insider’s New Jersey “Insider 100 Policymaker” lists.