Christie’s Environmental Agenda Would Be A Disaster for New Jersey
I just read the NJEF press releaseÂ endorsingÂ Republican Chris Christie for Governor.
Needless to say, I was surprised.
Based on Christieâ€™s priorÂ controversialÂ proposals to slash DEPÂ budgets even furtherÂ and remove naturalÂ resource programs from DEP, I had assumed that Christie was not realistically seekingÂ environmentalÂ groupÂ endorsements.
At aÂ fundamentalÂ level, ChristieÂ feelsÂ that DEP has becomeÂ â€œtoo intertwinedÂ withÂ businessÂ lifeâ€ in NJ (his words)Â andÂ needs to shrink and disengage on the regulatory front. This language should set off all sorts of alarmÂ bellsÂ for those who follow environmentalÂ affairs â€“ it represents a sort of kinderÂ andÂ gentlerÂ (yet actually more conservative) â€œOpen for Businessâ€ mantra.
TheÂ ChristieÂ environmentalÂ platform is a disaster â€“ here is my point by point rebuttal, based on 25 years ofÂ experienceÂ working onÂ environmentalÂ policy in NJ â€“ 13 years as a policy analyst at DEP and 12 for ENGOâ€™s. (ChristieÂ platformÂ isÂ Boldface) Â Â
1. Restore DEP to its core missionÂ â€“
This is traditional conservative republican code for an anti-government and anti-regulatoryÂ pro-business agenda.Â
Years of experience in NJ has shown that in order to protect air, water, land,Â andÂ naturalÂ resources, we need strong science based regulationsÂ andÂ a robust DEP staff to monitor and enforce those regulations. VoluntaryÂ complianceÂ is a proven failure – it does not work.
In addition toÂ regulatoryÂ rollbacks,Â ChristieÂ seeks to break natural resource programs out of DEP. This move wouldÂ jeopardizeÂ federal matching grant fundsÂ andÂ makeÂ fundingÂ those NR programs with stateÂ appropriationsÂ even harder in the current toughÂ fiscalÂ climate. Removing NR programs from DEP also would decoupleÂ existing effective linkages between NRÂ andÂ land useÂ andÂ water resourceÂ regulatoryÂ programs – the C1 stream classification program is a great example: The Natural Resources side of the DEP, staff at Fish and Wildlife, does the stream sampling. DEPÂ regulatoryÂ staff in Surface WaterÂ QualityÂ StandardsÂ program thenÂ revise the stream classification regulations,Â which then areÂ implementedÂ in the land use and water resource permit programs. Â Christie seems to have no idea how theseÂ programsÂ are designed.
Â 2.Â expedite hazardous siteÂ cleanupÂ Â -
This approach would more heavily rely on and make the failed Corzine Licensed Site Professional privatization scheme even WORSE â€“ Christie shows no knowledge whatsoever about the siteÂ remediationÂ programÂ andÂ why it has failed. EPA IG Reports found that DEP does not useÂ andÂ enforceÂ existingÂ law, instead relies on the word of private contractors and industry voluntary compliance. The cleanup program is economically driven. Costly cleanup sites languish when little redevelopmentÂ potentialÂ exists. There is also serious mismanagement and a lack of science based priorities. Christie is clueless.
Â 3.Â Establish Rule-Making Scientific Advisory Committees â€“
This would go evenÂ furtherÂ than the current Corzine flawed ScienceÂ AdvisoryÂ Board, in terms of providing for moreÂ privateÂ sector control ofÂ scienceÂ ANDÂ regulations.Â At leastÂ theÂ Corzine SAB is limited in scopeÂ (to science)Â andÂ does not allow the SAB to deliberate on policy.Â The business community wants the SAB to get control over policy too. ChristieÂ explicitlyÂ would expand theÂ SAB roleÂ andÂ allow even more privateÂ sectorÂ capture of scienceÂ andÂ DEPÂ regulatoryÂ programs. Â A very bad idea.
Â 4.Â Strengthen Rule Impact Statements â€“Â
This has been a business community goal and tactic sinceÂ theÂ ReaganÂ Administration. Right out of the gate, Reagan issued an Executive Order 12,291 onÂ regulatoryÂ impactÂ analysis that crippled EPAÂ andÂ otherÂ agencies ability to promulgate rules. It allowed OMB to blocked new regulations based on cost considerations. Christie Whitman issued EO 27 and tried a similar move, but thankfully it failed. TheseÂ impactÂ statements allowÂ economicÂ cost benefit analysis to trump science based public healthÂ andÂ environmentalÂ protections. Christie wants toÂ bringÂ these failed conservative national regulatory deform policies to NJ â€“ I SAY NO WAY!
Â 5.Â REVIEW ALL DEP RULES AND REGULATIONS â€“
Again, this is the business communityâ€™s game plan toÂ dismantleÂ regulatoryÂ protections. The lack of any policy objectivesÂ andÂ programmaticÂ detailsÂ gives it away.Â
There are several positiveÂ regulatoryÂ reforms that DEP needs to pursue to strengthenÂ protectionsÂ and improveÂ performanceÂ andÂ productivity,Â such as: 1) ecosystem basedÂ management; 2) site wide permit reviews that integrate multiple â€œsiloâ€ permits; 3) consideration of secondary andÂ cumulativeÂ impacts in permit decisions; 4) conducting environmental justice reviews; 5) proposing and implementing long delayed rules to protect the habitat of threatened and endangered species; 6)Â shift from site specific case by case decisions to regionalÂ management; 7) developing a newÂ regionalÂ approach and plan for the coastal zone; 8 ) developing a regional plan for Delaware Bayshore (modeledÂ onÂ Highlands); 9) reforming the watershedÂ management program by putting teeth in planning; 10) developing aÂ program for the new CoastalÂ andÂ Ocean ProtectionÂ Council, 11) implementing federalÂ CleanÂ Air Act MACT requirements,Â particularlyÂ for hazardous air pollutants (HAPâ€™s) and additional controls onÂ volatileÂ organics and fine particulates; 12) developing and proposing a regulatoryÂ scheme to implement and meet the emission reduction goals of the Global WarmingÂ ResponseÂ Act; 13) streaming the siting and permitting for renewable energy sources; et al to name only a few priorities.
The fact that none are offered in the Christie plan reveals that this is just a DEP dismantling exercise.
6.Â Eliminate Agency Funding from Fees and Fines â€“Â
More than 50% of DEPâ€™s budget is feesÂ andÂ fines – (75% when federal funds are included) – eliminatingÂ this revenue without identifying anÂ alternativeÂ Â fundingÂ source is aÂ formulaÂ to defund the agency â€“ I am reminded of the infamous Â Grover Norquist quote: â€œmake DEP so small so he can drown the beast in the bathtubâ€
Â 7.Â PROTECTING NEW JERSEYâ€™S OPEN SPACE
Establish Long-Term Funding Source of Open Space -Â this is good butÂ hardlyÂ offsets the above 1-6 disasters. Plus, no stableÂ fundingÂ source is identified. DoesÂ ChristieÂ supportÂ Senator Smith’s water tax bill? Â Â (read the bill, S1454, here)
Â 8.Â STRONGLY ENFORCE CLEAN WATER AND OCEAN POLLUTION LAWS â€“Â
ChristieÂ offers no details, and he appears clueless about state law. His federal enforcement experienceÂ is of little value. NJ already has a mandatoryÂ CleanÂ Water Enforcement Act which is stronger than the federal Clean Water Act. Worse, he undermines his own rhetoric about strong enforcement by talk of a â€œpublic private partnershipâ€ onÂ pharmaceuticals.Â This is code for voluntaryÂ complianceÂ andÂ privatization.
The new USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program data are justÂ demonstratingÂ theÂ need for additionalÂ regulationÂ of a wide variety ofÂ currentlyÂ unregulatedÂ contaminants, includingÂ endocrineÂ disruptorsÂ andÂ pharmaceuticals widely found in rivers and drinking water – so it looks like Christie seeks to derail that effort via stealth.
Â 9. Restore Shore Protection Cuts â€“Â
This is code for more beach replenishment money. DEP Coastal Zone Management Reports have concluded that the beach replenishment program gives a false sense of security for flooding, stormÂ surge,Â andÂ sea level rise risks. This promotes more overdevelopment of coastal high hazard areas.