Home > Uncategorized > Burden Is On Christie’s DEP Nominee to Show Senate He’s Qualified

Burden Is On Christie’s DEP Nominee to Show Senate He’s Qualified

Bob Martin (L) with Christie Whitman (center) (photo: Werener-Graf)

Bob Martin (L) with Christie Whitman (center) (photo: Werener-Graf)

If confirmed, Martin would be the first DEP Commissioner with absolutely no academic, professional, or employment experience related to protecting the environment or public health.

Martin’s privatization and finance experience could make the Corzine “assset monetization” sale of the Turnpike seem like a picnic.

Incoming NJ Governor Chris Christie named Bob Martin as his nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Martin is a retired corporate executive. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Martin would bring a business background to DEP. He’s a retired executive from the international firm Accenture L.L.P. and served as a policy adviser in Christie’s campaign, focusing on energy policy. Christie wants to make New Jersey a manufacturing center for solar panels and wind mills.

While promising to protect the state’s natural resources, Christie also said he would strip the DEP of regulations that hamper economic development.

Martin must be confirmed by the Senate. The confirmation process reflects constitutional principles of separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. The confirmation hearing provides an opportunity and excellent forum for both the Senate and the nominee to explore policy issues – particularly when the Governor and Legislature are of different political parties – thus promoting both transparency and democratic accountability.

Although the confirmation process theoretically raises a hurdle, traditionally, an incoming Governor is given wide deference in naming his Cabinet and the Senate confirmation process is primarily ceremonial. Exceptions arise in very limited cases where a nominee has legitimate questions related to qualifications, temperament, or ideology or controversial policy views outside the bounds of mainstream NJ tradition. As such, there is a presumption of confirmation and a heavy burden on the Senate.

In Bob Martin’s case, given his lack of a NJ record and corporate experience, I think there are several legitimate questions he must answer during the Senate confirmation process. Because he has no record or environmental credential, the burden of confirmation shifts from the Senate to Mr. Martin.

Here are my initial set of issues and questions on Mr. Martin’s background that Senators should probe during the confirmation process before they decide whether he is qualified to run DEP. We will be doing more research on these issues – this is the first shot and things are clearly tentative and expressed as questions.

I) Qualifications

DEP is a public regulatory agency that makes most decisions based on science and law. All prior DEP Commissioners have had academic degrees, professional licenses, training and government or professional experience in directly relevant areas of law, science, and/or public policy.

Martin has a BA in economics and a master’s in finance. His corporate professional experience appears unrelated to the environment. From what I can tell at his point, it is unclear whether he has experience in managing a large budget or large staffed organization. He has no government experience and has not held any political office. According to my sources, Martin has had no involvement in environmental issues at the local level in his Hopewell home town or at the state level.

Martin’s lack of experience shifts the burden to Mr. Martin to demonstrate that he is qualified and capable to run the DEP effectively.

The Senate should closely probe the question of Martin’s qualifications for the job. He is clearly outside the NJ tradition in terms of prior DEP Commissioners.

II) Policy views and ideology

Martin is reportedly a strong proponent of the highly controversial technique called “cost benefit analysis” (CBA).

According to NJ Biz:

Martin said it is taking “too long to get permits through” and that regulations must be based on science, facts and “good cost-benefit analysis.”

The use of CBA is strongly opposed by most environmentalists because it has been used as a back door tool by industry to kill and/or sharply scale back protections for public health and the environment, often on false or inflated factual grounds. CBA has theoretical and practical limitations – industry has a long record of grossly exaggerating the costs of environmental regulations, while the ecological and public health benefits are extremely difficult to quantify. Thus, CBA strongly biases decisions in favor of corporate polluters and against protection of the environment and public health.

But CBA isn’t merely a technically flawed tool – it raises grave ethical concerns, including placing a dollar value on human life  (talk about “Death Panels”!).

Because it is based on the total dollar value of a person’s lifetime employment earnings, CBA discriminates against and assigns low economic value to the elderly, minority, and working class people who are low income and earn less. CBA has been rejected for those fatal flaws.

CBA is not now conducted by DEP and there are no NJ laws or regulations that authorize it.

The Senate needs to closely question Mr. Martin about his views on CBA, including:

1. please identify your academic training and professional knowledge and experience with CBA;

2. please provide examples of decisions you have made that applied CBA to practical real world problems;

3. please describe, in detail, the provisions of federal and state environmental laws that you believe authorize the use of CBA;

4. would you implement CBA at DEP? If so, exactly how.

5. Are you aware that DEP has only 1 economist on staff and that he is not trained in CBA? Given this limitation at DEP, would you hire economists or allow private industry – like Exelon and Dupont – to prepare CBA for DEP to use?

6. would you apply CBA to determine if cooling towers are the “best available technology” at Oyster Creek and Salem nuclear power plants? How would CBA apply to the legal mandate for DEP air permits to incorporate “advances in the art” of pollution control? How would CBA apply to water pollution discharge permits that must include effluent limits that achieve water quality standards?

7. would you apply CBA in establishing drinking water, water quality, air quality, and soil cleanup standards?

8. would you apply CBA to determine pollution control requirements for industries that discharge pollutants to air and water?

9. would you apply CBA to natural resource management programs, like wetlands protection, open space, fish and wildlife, and coastal and ocean resources?

10. How would you apply CBA to chemical safety programs, like the Toxic Catastrophe Prevent Act program?  How would you balance industry compliance costs against the deaths that would occur in the event of a chemical accident?

According to my sources, Martin has a record of outsourcing and off-shoring US jobs, as well as privatization of government services and deregulation of public water systems and other government functions. Sources say that Martin’s firm Accenture, grew out of Arthur Anderson accounting collapse associated with the Enron scandal.

11. did you have any involvement in the Enron matter? Who were your energy industry clients? Will you have conflcuits with energy firms in NJ?

12. a source provided this important background information on Martin’s firm Accenture:

A small but critical part of the work that B.C. Hydro farmed out five years ago to Accenture — under orders from the Liberal government — is being “repatriated.”

The procurement function — buying all the goods and services the giant utility needs over the course of a year — was among the routine office functions outsourced to a local Accenture offshoot in 2003.

That was a $1.4-billion, multi-year arrangement that saw Hydro shed 1,500 direct jobs and was pitched as a cost-saver and potential money maker. Despite the touted benefits, it prompted a heated political argument.

Critics, including the opposition, the unions involved and even a Liberal MLA at the time saw it as the sneaky start to a privatization campaign. “ (see Hydro retreats, a little, on outsourcing)

Hmmmm…  from Tom Hester’s newjerseynewsroom.com article:

“Martin also has international experience. He lived in England from 1991 to 1995 and worked with several large UK water and electric utilities as the companies privatized and the markets deregulated. He also spent extensive time working with utility and energy companies throughout Europe and Canada.”

please describe your prior professional corporate work with respect to outsourcing jobs and privatization and/or deregulation of water systems.

13. would you support additional privatization and/or deregulation of DEP programs? If so, which ones?

14. would you support privatization of public water and sewer services?

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  1. Zoe Kelman
    January 14th, 2010 at 22:29 | #1

    25 years with Accenture can only mean more privatization and deregulation for NJ. A company that doesn’t pay its taxes (incorporated in Ireland) yet receives federal contracts.

    He also doesn’t seem to respect public access to beaches. The Atlantic Press reported that he owns a summer home assessed at $2.1 million on 17th Street in Avalon.
    “Avalon waged a successful battle against the DEP last year over the agency’s insistence that municipalities install public bathrooms and allow 24-hour access to beaches replenished with state money.
    All the Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi could say about Martins nomination is that he doesn’t think he’ll have to worry about providing public access to the beaches while Martin is around.


  2. getzy
    January 16th, 2010 at 01:33 | #2

    Stay on this story, Bill. Remember what happened to the EPA and the global environmental discourse under Bush?…

  3. Bill Wolfe
    January 16th, 2010 at 11:06 | #3

    Thanks Zoe, I agree. The Senate confirmation hearings should probe Martin’s work with Accenture and ask him if he plans similar privatization and deregulation for DEP and environmental services.

    Getzy – yes I clearly recall. In fact, I submitted testimony opposing the Whitman EPA confirmation, and I wrote an Op-Ed that ran in Star Ledger adn Tretnon Times that predicted it all! Aside from Bill Neil (formerly with Audubon) and Jeff Tittel, I was the lone critic at the time, may NJ ENGO’s supporting Whitman. We see a very similar dynamic – worse actually – shaping up right now with NJEF strongly providing political cover for Christie. Train wreck.

  1. January 17th, 2010 at 15:29 | #1
  2. January 24th, 2010 at 12:14 | #2
  3. January 29th, 2010 at 11:37 | #3
  4. February 1st, 2010 at 12:33 | #4
  5. February 4th, 2010 at 11:47 | #5
  6. February 6th, 2010 at 15:20 | #6
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  10. June 11th, 2010 at 10:14 | #10
  11. September 11th, 2010 at 10:33 | #11
  12. November 7th, 2010 at 13:01 | #12
  13. December 28th, 2010 at 15:21 | #13
  14. March 7th, 2018 at 15:25 | #14
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