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Christie’s Earth Week Preview

Senator Buono, Senate Majority leader (R) and Lt. Gov Guadagno at Red Tape hearing in Montlcair

Senator Buono, Senate Majority leader (R) and Lt. Gov Guadagno at Red Tape hearing in Montclair

[Update #2 – glad to see Senator Buono take a stand: NJ Senator distances herself from Gov. Christie’s ‘red tape’ report

The report, released shortly before 11 a.m., says the group had “arrived at a series of unanimous recommendations” — but omits Buono’s name from the cover sheet.

Asked about the omission, Buono said she raised concerns after receiving the language of proposed legislation last week but was told the group wanted to present a united report.

“It’s just unanimity at any cost, even if it means being dishonest,” she said. “Bipartisanship is very different than strong-arming consensus.”]

Update #1: Lt. Gov. just released the Red Tape Review Report – far worse than I imagined. DEP recommendations are found at the very end in Appendix H – its an all out assault. I will be writing in more detail soon. For a copy of the report, click HERE.]

At the outset of NJ Governor Christie’s Earth Week, we thought we’d do a little week in preview to set the stage for significant announcements and political spin out of Trenton on topics we have been writing about recently.

Governor Christie’s Executive Order #1 moratorium on regulations ends on Tuesday April 20. That was the target date for Christie’s Regulatory Czar, Lt. Governor Guadagno, to issue her “Red Tape Review Group” Report.

But ironically, April 20 just happens to be the 40th anniversary of the creation of the DEP. Even the Christie political people realize that would be awkward timing. [Error! It is April 22 – sorry!] So they bumped up the Red Tape Report release for today, April 19. [the motive for accelerating the release of the Report is not that reliably clear]

When we get a hold of that report (obviously we got no advance copy!), we will provide a status update on the 12 DEP regulations frozen under the Executive Order, outline the legislative initiatives underway to implement the Governor’s “common sense regulatory principles”, and conduct a detailed review of the “regulatory relief” policies recommended in the Red Tape Review Report.

On Tuesday – you heard it here first! – Commissioner Bob Martin will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation – by the legislature – of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 20, 1970.

Forty years ago, the legislature boldly acted to recognize the overwhelming public outpouring of support and activism for environmental protection by creating a new regulatory institution with a mission exclusively dedicated to environmental protection. In doing so, the Legislature greatly expanded the narrow “conservation” oriented mission and eliminated the economic development mission and functions of the previous entity, which was named the “Department of Conservation and Economic Development” .

In a supreme irony – despite harsh editorial opposition, polls showing 79% NJ residents opposed and strong criticism -  in celebrating DEP’s 40th, Commissioner Martin will announce his own unilateral creation of a new Assistant Commissioner of Economic Development, designed to make DEP a major player in economic development. Martin is making this dramatic and controversial move, despite no legislative authorization:

“I don’t see anything in (the state law detailing the DEP’s powers) that has to do with promoting the economy,” said Jeff Climpson, environment section chief in the state Office of Legislative Services, which drafts state legislation. (Push to weigh economic impacts creates stir. Todd Bates. 4/11/10)

Martin also will announce a new Deputy Commissioner and a Department-wide reorganization to promote Governor Christie’s “common sense” policies in Executive Order #2. Those policies include “regulatory relief”, cost benefit analysis, sound science, and a more “customer friendly” culture at DEP.

These policies are explicitly designed and intended to shrink DEP’s mission and force DEP to “do less with less”.

So, Christie and Martin seek a more than 40 year rollback of the clock on environmental protection, back to the bad old days of the 1970 Department of Conservation and Economic Development.

As a prelude to what’s in the pipeline, we note that Martin’s “fresh look” at DEP science already: 1) killed a proposed greenhouse gas monitoring rule, 2) abandoned a drinking water standard for the chemical perchlorate, 3) twisted the findings of an EPA funded air toxics study in Paterson, 4) moved to gut DEP Vapor Intrusion requirements, 5) issued Administrative Order 2010-3 which delayed and weakened water quality management rules, and 6) signaled to a Court a plan to nix the Highlands septic density standards, the core of water resource and land protection in that region.

Due to harsh criticism he and the Governor have gotten thus far for slashing over $300 million in energy conservation, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas cap/trade funds (RGGI), Martin also might go out of his way to mention that he is retaining the DEP’s Office of Climate Change.

Martin may also announce his Science Advisory Board and the new head of the Office of Policy and Planning, formerly headed by Jeanne Herb, an experienced DEP manager who was forced out. Herb was a democratic political appointee (McGreevey), but prior to that had served in important lower management and staff positions, like the Office of Pollution Prevention and staff in the chemical Right-to-Know program, where she made some powerful enemies of Christie supporters, like Hal Bozarth of the Chemistry Council.

Expect Martin to try to sell this radical rollback agenda with some recycled rhetoric about “seeking balance” in “tough economic times“. Martin will attempt to provide political cover for this agenda by forming several (small, hand picked, and closed) “stakeholder processes” and emphasize that he is working to make DEP more transparent. Martin will mention his management emphasis on metrics, but make no commitments to actual enforceable metrics.

We heard a dry run of that rap on Saturday at the NJ Environmental Federation’s annual meeting, where Martin gave the keynote address (a detailed review of that in a future post).

Earth Day, 2005. DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell debates Bill Wolfe.

Earth Day, 2005. DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell (L) debates Bill Wolfe at protest of environmental groups to expose green-washing. This was modeled on a similar 1996 Earth Day protest against Governor Whitman. Will Christie and Martin get a pass?

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  1. Bill Wolfe
    April 19th, 2010 at 21:01 | #1

    Note to readers:

    just for purposes of clarity – the photo of Buono and Guadagno was posted on the second update, AFTER the title of the post.

    I am concerned that this could be perceived as crude, and want to clarify the timing.

    The headline came before I had the Star Ledger article.

  2. April 20th, 2010 at 08:28 | #2

    Jeanne Herb was anything but popular with her staff, having forced some of them into retirement with less than a half hour of notice. She was a political operative who didn’t even try to understand science or what her staff was working on. It was all Policy and no science under her but, unfortunately, it might continue as the same with whomever Bob Martin appoints.

  3. Bill Wolfe
    April 20th, 2010 at 09:10 | #3

    Thanks anonymous – I completely agree, I am not defending Herb, and have been harshly critical of her – just click on the two links where I mention her.

    However, in honesty and fairness, one must recognize that she did have professional accomplishments at DEP during a long career, including playing a key role in developing the Pollution Prevention Act. While DEP has neglected to effectively implement that law and make true pollution prevention and toxics use reduction, that accomplishment should be noted.

  4. Joe Hoffman
    April 20th, 2010 at 09:28 | #4

    Earth Day XL can also be looked at as “two generations” since the creation of DEP in 1970. I would suggest finding the point during those 40 years when environmental protection was its strongest (realizing that it has never been strong enough) and comparing that point to the Christie-Martin morass. My worry is exactly what is happening–these people’s goal was to get to power somehow and then do EXACTLY what they wished to do–both parties be damned! These people have a minimum of 45 MORE months to go–imagine what their environmental ENDGAME is if these are just the first “shots across the bow”.

  5. Bill Wolfe
    April 20th, 2010 at 09:34 | #5

    Good point Joe – while he knows nothing about the environment, Martin is very smart and savy, and I suspect he has a strategic plan – but it probably is based on getting massive rollbacks early, before the media, the ENGO’s adn the public can understand what is going on.

    The environmental community needs a coordinated public campaign to block these rollbacks and demand that we move forward, not backward.

    I’ll be writing on Thursday (Earth Day) to reflect upon the recent history (40 years) and my own 30 year experience.


  1. April 20th, 2010 at 10:12 | #1
  2. April 21st, 2010 at 08:42 | #2
  3. April 24th, 2010 at 08:48 | #3
  4. April 27th, 2010 at 22:11 | #4
  5. April 28th, 2010 at 08:35 | #5
  6. August 24th, 2010 at 11:40 | #6
  7. September 24th, 2010 at 10:45 | #7
  8. November 7th, 2010 at 13:46 | #8
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  10. December 17th, 2010 at 14:26 | #10
  11. December 29th, 2010 at 14:14 | #11
  12. September 23rd, 2016 at 01:52 | #12
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