Home > Uncategorized > The Ludicrous Logic of “Cost-Benefit Bob Martin”

The Ludicrous Logic of “Cost-Benefit Bob Martin”

Sometimes the words and logic of politicians are so flawed and reveal such fact free and warped thinking, that I am taken aback – you could say it “shocks the conscience“.

That sure occurred at the Wednesday January 13, 2010 press conference announcing Governor elect Christie’s nomination for DEP Commissioner, where nominee Bob Martin was shown on NJN TV News coverage making this comment:

It takes too long now to get permits through, to get inspections done at the DEP. It’s been hurting the businesses in this state. We need to fix that process. So there’s an opportunity to go and do that at this point in time. At the same time, we also need to look at the regulations in this state for the environment and make sure that they’re based on science, they’re based on facts, they’re based on good cost benefit analysis.

Let’s look at Martin’s first claim: “too long to get permits through” is “hurting the businesses of this state”.

As evidence based critics and policy advocates, let’s start with some facts:

1) DEP approves 95-99% of permits C:\Documents and Settings\tbell\My Documents\Doria Report 71206.PDF – this destroys the NJ Business & Industry Association and Chamber of Commerce lie about lack of “predictability and certainty” at DEP;

2) many land use permits are required by law to be issued in just 90 days – this destroys business community myths about “costs of delay” and “regulatory uncertainty”;

3) not one shred of credible evidence even suggests that alleged delays in the DEP permit process are harming NJ’s economy; and

4) there is overwhelming evidence that the cause of the economic problems and recession are the Wall Street financial collapse and lack of private sector investment See:Economic Recession Crushes Construction Labor

Bob Martin was educated as an economist and is associated with what has been described as an “astroturf organization and phony think tankThe Reform Institute – so he surely must know this.

But maybe no one told him that the economy is in recession and that even if DEP could issue permits in one day, new construction would still not be happening. DEP permit process has absolutely zero to do with the bad economy.

Maybe Bob should talk to his business friends and colleagues in the Legislature, who rammed through the “Permit Extension Act”. The stated objective of that legislation is to extend already issued and expiring DEP permits. Those DEP permits are expiring because – for at least 5 years -  the private sector failed to invest and complete construction of all those projects that received DEP permits (here’s a hint Bob – in economists’ lingo, that means there is a glut in the supply of permits and no effective demand for construction!).

Let’s examine the second claim: it “takes too long to get inspections done” .

Maybe Bob is thinking of waiting too long in line at the DMV car inspection.

Because if DEP did inspections faster, logically they would do more of them. More DEP inspections would detect more violations and result in more enforcement actions and more fines and penalties.

Advocating market based “voluntary compliance” and “grace periods“, NJ businesses have historically and consistently claimed that DEP enforcement is too tough and that fines and penalties harm the economy.

So which is it Bob? Do you want quicker DEP inspections and more fines and penalties? Or do you want to get DEP off the backs of the business community?

Now for interrogation of Martin’s third claim: that we need to look at the regulations to assure that they are based on “science, facts, and good cost benefit analysis”.

Wow. I hardly know where to start with that one.

Off the top of my head – maybe Bob Martin with all his environmental policy expertise can correct me – I can’t recall any recent legal challenges to DEP regulations that found that DEP rules were not based on science, facts, or that they lack any mandated “good cost benefit analysis”.

In fact, I recall exactly the opposite.

Just a few recent examples: DEP “Category 1″ stream buffer regulations were challenged by the NJ Builders Association and upheld by the Courts. So were DEP soil cleanup and groundwater standards; the issuance of  water pollution control permits, and the DEP Highlands regulations -  See: SYLLABUS (This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court

Does Bob think NJ’s Courts allow DEP to promulgate regulations that lack scientific and factual bases?

I realize that Bob has zero legal or scientific training or expertise, but this kind of talk is ridiculous and must be called out.

Let’s hope the Senate confirmation process probes these issues in detail.

BTW Mr. Martin, we would be remiss not to note that, per the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (see OLS Analysis):

“Last year, the Governor and the DEP Commissioner established a DEP Permit Efficiency Review Task Force for the purpose of examining the department’s permitting processes and suggesting ways to improve them. In August 2008, the task force issued its report (see: DEP Permit Efficiency Review Task Force Final Report – 8/7/08) which, among other findings, recommended that permit processing and the elimination of significant backlogs could be expedited by upgrading the department’s technological capabilities, providing adequate staff and meeting with applicants more often. The task force also found that permit delays are exacerbated by ineffective data processing systems that are insufficiently upgraded, lack a central database, and encounter chronic problems with electronic filing procedures.”

Please also be advised that the DEP manager that headed up the design of the ineffective and costly DEP information management systems (known as NJEMS) is Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. January 17th, 2010 at 15:16 | #1

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  1. January 24th, 2010 at 12:16 | #1
  2. January 28th, 2010 at 14:29 | #2
  3. February 1st, 2010 at 12:35 | #3
  4. February 6th, 2010 at 15:19 | #4
  5. February 7th, 2010 at 14:01 | #5
  6. February 26th, 2010 at 17:17 | #6
  7. February 27th, 2010 at 16:47 | #7
  8. March 4th, 2010 at 21:55 | #8
  9. April 16th, 2010 at 09:53 | #9
  10. November 7th, 2010 at 13:25 | #10
  11. December 17th, 2010 at 14:44 | #11
  12. October 24th, 2012 at 21:15 | #12
You must be logged in to post a comment.