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Governors shine media spotlight on Ocean Conservation

Ocean Summit long on symbolism, short on substance
In an apparent attempt to shore up the environmental platform of his 2009 Gubernatorial re-election campaign, today NJ Governor Jon Corzine spoke at a well attended NY City press conference with New York Governor David A. Paterson to announce an “historic” “Mid Atlantic Governor’s Agreement on Ocean Conservation” among the 5 mid-Atlantic states: NY, NJ, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (see: http://www.midatlanticocean.org/

NJ Governor Jon Corzine (right) and NY Governor David Paterson


Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality supports the Mid- Atlantic governor’s Agreement

The event was backed by the Obama Administration, who sent the President’s Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco.
The Obama support proved merely rhetorical in the Mid Atlantic region, which contrasts with NOAA Administrator Lubchenco’s $18.6 million and regulatory reform commitments last month to the New England region to improve fisheries management. New England Governors and Congressional delegation were able to secure real commitments from the Obama administration – with the Atlantic ocean in crisis, why were NY/NJ unable to get similar treatment? (see: NOAA head touts $18.6M for major fisheries shift

Sam Waterston supports Governor’s agreement and warns of ocean acidification caused by high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Adding celebrity was Sam Waterston, a member of the Board of Directors of Oceana, the ocean conservation advocacy group. Waterston emphasized the devastating inter-related threats posed by global warming and ocean acidification. Given this focus, politically, I was baffled by the failure of Corzine or Waterston to recognize the very recent significant achievements of NJ’s senior Senator Frank Lautenberg, who just championed an ocean acidification law. See:
With all the cameras rolling, of course, no one seemed to want to mention bad news from the Pacific west coast:
“The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Administrator Lisa Jackson over the agency’s failure to recognize the impacts of ocean acidification on waters off the state of Washington.” See:
First Ocean Acidification Lawsuit Filed Against EPA
or from scientists around the globe see:
Climate Deal Must Cover Acid Oceans, World Scientists Urge http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2009/2009-06-01-01.asp
The “Governor’s Agreement” creates a “Mid Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean” as a mechanism to promote a cooperative regional approach to ocean management. General priority issues to be addressed include:
1) protection of important habitat and coastal ecosystems;
2) improvements in coastal water quality;
3) sustainable development of renewable energy sources in off shore areas
4) adaptation to climate change impacts (see level rise, erosion, flooding, storms, etc)
However, the deal provides no new resources, programs, deadlines, or commitments to legislative or regulatory policy initiatives to resolve the 4 priority issues.
Was this event a symbolic political gesture or the start of something significant?
To answer that question, folks may want to compare the vague content of the Governor’s Agreement with the recommendations of a string of detailed prior Reports that have been ignored (see the below links).

Governor Corzine enters with Sam Waterston – Law and Disorder? Photo Op or policy commitment?

To explore the seriousness of the commitment Corzine made today to the Mid Atlantic Ocean Council and ecosystem management, note that Corzine signed a law on January 13, 2008. That law created a NJ Coastal and Ocean Protection Council and an overarching ecosystem based management policy. Almost 18 months later, Governor Corzine has done nothing with those powers: 1) he has not appointed members to that Council; 2) he has diverted the Council’s start up appropriations funding to close budget gaps; and 3) his DEP has done nothing to implement the new ecosystem based management policy. See: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/PL07/288_.PDF
Contrast NJ’s poor performance with progress in New York: “New York lawmakers in 2006 established the state Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council and ordered the heads of New York agencies to devise a long-term coast management plan, which was released earlier this year.”
A brief chronology:
• May 2003 – Pew Oceans Commission Report to the Nation – “America’s Living Oceans – Charting a Course for Change”
• September 20, 2004 – US Commission on Ocean policy – “An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century”
• September 28, 2005 – NJ Coastal and Ocean Coalition Report “Ocean Protection in New Jersey – A Blueprint for State level Action”
• May 31, 2007 – NJ Coastal and Ocean Coalition letter to Governor Corzine urging him to take action
• January 13, 2008 – Governor Corzine signs law establishing a Coastal and Ocean Protection Council and new Ecosystem Based Management policy
• April 2009 – Joint Ocean Commissions Report – “Changing Oceans Changing World – Ocean Priorities for the Obama Administration and Congress”
• May 2009 – NJ Coastal and Ocean Coalition Report “Ocean Water Quality in New Jersey – Redirecting the Management Effort”
June 4, 2009 – Mid Atlantic Governor’s sign “Agreement on Ocean Conservation”

Jersey Shore

And if past is prologue, consider that at the outset of his Administration, Corzine held a “Governor’s Summit” to address sea level rise impacts of global warming. Based upon April 2006 warnings and recommendations from his Cabinet officials, Governor Corzine convened a Summit “Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey“, which was held on September 25, 2006. The Governor directed Summit participants to focus on, among other things:
• What policy changes should the State make in response to the focus issues of floods and storms (including sea level rise)?
• Are there current State policies and practices regarding the regulation of …land use and construction that serve as disincentives to sound practices in light of climate change?
• What …[policies] could we modify to encourage consideration of floods and storms in development and land use practices?
The only thing to emerge from that “Summit” was proposed legislation to provide a multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout for the insurance industry. For the serious nature of the economic and environmental “catastrophic” risks involved, see: http://www.peer.org/docs/nj/a3236%20letter.pdf
That billion dollar bailout bill has been reintroduced by Senator Sweeney as S2089
see: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/S2500/2089_I1.HTM
Read the above link on last session’s Assembly bill that failed as to why that’s a bad idea.
Is anyone even paying attention? What other multi-billion taxpayer bailouts have gotten NO PRESS?
Last, NJ based Clean Ocean Action held a protest outside the Governor’s Summit to call attention to a proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facility off the NJ coast they have dubbed “insanity island”.

LNG protestors
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