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The Day Before Disaster

Imagine the public outrage, screaming headlines, political reaction, and excoriating editorials that would occur if it were discovered that THE DAY BEFORE the BP Gulf Oil Blowout the Obama Administration issued a Report that:

1) complained that the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) and federal regulations were strangling oil production, impeding investment in deep off shore oil drilling,  and harming the economy of the Gulf Region; 

2) recommended that MMS oversight be scaled back and MMS become more friendly to the oil industry and treat them like customers; and

3) federal environmental regulation of off shore drilling are onerous and need to be scaled back to promote oil production.

Just think about that for a moment  (and I could add many other hyoptheticals, e.g. about mine regulations before the Massey Energy West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed 29 workers; or Wall Street financial oversight; or air port security regulations before 9/11; or food safety regulations before any number of recent high profile food poisoning episodes).

While Obama did support off shore drilling just weeks before the Gulf disaster and made major mistakes, he didn’t attack MMS and environmental regulations (see The Spill, The Scandal and the President).

But the Christie Administration effectively did just that – and one day before the Gulf blowout!

On April 19, 2010, the DAY BEFORE the BP Gulf Oil Blowout,  the Christie Administration issued the Red Tape Review Report.

That Report made virtually the same findings and recommendations outlined in 1-3 above regarding DEP, environmental regulations, and NJ’s economy  (for a copy of the full Report, click HERE or see this for DEP related recommendations).

Christie and his DEP Commissioner Bob Martin are inviting environmental catastrophes - as the BP Gulf Oil Blowout so spectacularly has illustrated – that happen when government regulatory oversight and strict enforcement of regulation of risky and profit driven industry are scaled back. 

And the Red Tape Report was no anomaly – the Report was preceded by the DEP Transition Reports (see this and this and this) and the Executive Orders (see this and this)

Yet, (aside from this) why has there been so little news coverage, just one editorial, and no legislative oversight?

Where are the Democrats? the media? the so called environmentalists? Some enviro’s are even defending the Christie onslaught – still!

The Asbury Park Press sure understood the implications -  in a strongly worded April 16 editorial; “Aiding economy not DEP’s job“, the Asbury Park Press blasted DEP Commissioner Martin for his views on DEP’s role in economic development and his plans for creating a new Assistant Commissioner for economic development:

Now and then, some public official will say things that make the attentive listener go, “Whoa! That doesn’t sound quite right. Does this guy understand his job?”

The most recent example to come out of the Christie administration is found in the musings of Bob Martin, the new commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. …

The DEP’s job is to protect and preserve the environment, not to insert itself into questions of the economic issues involved. That’s for other state policymakers to address. It is much too early to form any judgments on how Martin will do on the job. But some of his statements thus far should give those who care about New Jersey’s environment real pause.

And so did the Bergen Record, in this scathing May 2, 2010 editorial, Cleaner Water: 

Martin’s new opinion came about after he was embarrassed publicly. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released e-mails sent to Martin from the EPA that made clear that even if the agency imposed a limit, 6 1/2 years could elapse before the rule was in place, Staff Writer James O’Neill reported. Martin would have been playing Russian roulette with the public’s health.

Perchlorate is linked to thyroid dysfunction. In fetuses and infants (through formula or breast milk), high levels of perchlorate can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities. No parent would ever choose to give perchlorate-laced juice to a baby, and no pregnant woman would ever drink a caffeine-free beverage if she knew it included a rocket-fuel additive.

The previous commissioner had proposed a sensible perchlorate limit of 5 parts per billion, far below a possible federal limit. The state limit would leave it in a good position if later scientists find that even 15 parts per billion is too high.

Martin has not said what the perchlorate limit will be. We know what it should be: 5 parts per billion.

And again, the Asbury Park Press shows they get it. In a June 11, 2010 editorial, Don’t Undercut the environment, they corrrectly criticize the Legislature, but ignore the fact that the same federal consistency policy has already been adopted in Christie Executive Order #2:

The politicians in Trenton have been known to come up with some bone-headed pieces of legislation, but they’d have to go a long way to beat their latest foray into deregulation.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering prohibiting state agencies from mandating — or even proposing — any new environmental regulations or requirements that would exceed federal government standards unless every detail were approved first by the Legislature.

Incredibly, this monument to shortsighted selling out to special interests is actually moving through the Statehouse. S1986 has been referred to the State Government Committee, and the companion bill, A2486, awaits a vote by the full Assembly. That vote could come this month.

These bills need to be stopped cold. The opposition should be full-throated and bipartisan.

(for the record, we testified against and wrote about this bill over 3 months ago and included targeting the Governor, who is the source of the problem. We wrote:)

The bill, A2486 (Burzichelli) would prohibit state agencies from adopting any standards that were more stringent that federal requirements, unless each one were individually specifically authorized by the Legislature. It implements the “common sense principles” of Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2.

And people wonder why bad shit happens?

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