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Christie and Buono on the environment: The sounds of silence

TOM JOHNSON / NJ SPOTLIGHT – The state’s open-space preservation program is broke. Electric and gas transmission projects may soon traverse the New Jersey Highlands and the Pine Barrens, forested land previously set aside for protection. Questions abound on where and whether to pull back from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey Shore.

Not that many years ago, those issues and others likely would have emerged as top concerns and would have been hotly debated in a gubernatorial contest. Not this year: The economy apparently trumps the environment.

In the race between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County, the environment rarely has been raised as a topic. Silence prevails, though some say the differences between the two candidates on this issue are as stark as they have ever been in a gubernatorial election.

Besides some discussion about the impact of climate change on New Jersey, environmental issues have failed to engage either candidate or the public to a large degree. So much for the green economy, an issue that some parties hoped would spur economic growth in the state by creating jobs developing offshore wind farms and new employment in the once flourishing solar sector.

The apathy even extends to a few environmental organizations that typically weigh in with endorsements — but not this year. Both the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and Environment New Jersey …