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Christie Dismantling Underway – A Look at DEP Targets

[Update #2 – 4/17/11 – Christie caught in another lie on NJDWSC Bergen Record: Christie aides say water supply commission was hostile to oversight]

[Update #1: 11/8/10 – almost 2 months later, the story runs in Bergen Record (Wolfenotes broke it, packaged it, testified to Clean Water Council, and briefed reporter on it, but stiffed again): Merger of water agencies debated – end update]

Governor Christie held a press conference on Friday to announce the first round of what I will call his “government dismantling initiative” under Executive Order #15, which directed that: 

8. The commissioner or head of each principal department in the Executive Branch (hereinafter referred to as “Cabinet Member”) is hereby directed to identify the State Authorities established in or allocated to such department and to provide a recommendation to the Governor’s Office not later than May 15, 2010, regarding whether each such State Authority should continue to exist or be eliminated.

There are 3 distinct activites underway that constitute the “Christie government dismantling initiative” (Warning Note: this is not to be confused with Christie’s radical:  a) regulatory rollback initiative; or b) his race to the bottom initiative; or c) his privatization initiative; or d) his budget slashing initiative; or e) his attack on science; or ) his devaluing of human life; or g) his attack on government, public sector workers and unions initiative) or h) lax oversight that invites catastrophe; or j) failed federalism policy. These 3 include:

  • 1) government entities already eliminated under Christie Executive Order #40;
  • 2) Executive Order #15 Report recommendations for elimination of additional entities, many of which would require legislation; and
  • 3) pending legislation, including a bill now on the Governor’s desk

There are common themes in the recommendations – many of these entities are either inactive or out of date, do not impact policy or practice, and deserve to be eliminated.

But many of the DEP recommendations are significant and controversial, effect policy or practice, and typically involve public oversight of DEP.

Many of the government entities targeted for elimination may have not yet been established, or are currently underutilized, underfunded, or dormant. But that does not justfy their elimination.  They could serve a useful purpose in the future, after the Christie anti-government black cloud dissipates.

On Friday, Christie issued Executive Order #40, which eliminated  60 government entities.

But, as we recently wrote, there is legislation on the Governor’s desk to eliminate others, most significantly the Environmental Advisory Task Force (see “Christie Poised to Kill Ecological Standards at DEP”

On the bright side, at least the Governor acknowledged the limits of his Executive powers, by noting, in the last sentence of EO 40, that:

nothing in this Order is intended or shall be construed to affect any entity whose existence has been codified by statute.

The 60 entities eliminated already by the Governor under EO #40 were described by the Star Ledger as “benign“, so I thought I take a look.

To their credit, the Ledger story provided a link to the Reports and recommendations of all State Agencies under EO#15.

The recommendations by DEP Commissioner Martin were particularly sweeping and frightening.

They reveal a zeal to consolidate power and control in DEP; avoid public oversight; and/or reduce opportunities for planning or policy debate. DEP recommendations also lack deference to legislative power.

For example, as summarized below, very few of DEP’s recommendations recognize the fact that the bodies slated for elimination were legislatively created and would need to be legislatively abolished, some by federal law or inter-state compact!

DEP’s failure to note this reveals either a stunning arrogance or ignorance, and it contrasts sharply with all the other state agency recommendations. Other Department recommendations provide a far narrower scope, more thorough analysis justifying the recommendation, and they explicitly note the legal authority that created the entity. Other Department’s noted legal restricitions, such as bond covenants, federal law, or contract issues.

So here is a list of the DEP recommendations I find troubling:

1. Executive Order #40 eliminations which I don’t see as “benign” – and address either longstanding or emergent priority issues

(30). the Governor’s Council on New Jersey Outdoors established pursuant to, inter alia, Executive Orders No. 138 (1986), No. 196 (1988), and No. 40 (1995);

(41)the Invasive Species Council established pursuant to, inter alia, Executive Order No. 97 (2004);

(42) the Lake Restoration & Management Advisory Task Force established pursuant to, inter alia, Executive Order No. 115 (2000);

(58) the New Jersey Geographic Information Council established pursuant to, inter alia, Executive Order No. 122 (2001);

2. DEP recommendations under EO #15.

Hit this link and scroll through to the DEP Report (yes, they’re the ones that are upside down in landscape!). Some surprises here, so here’s a heads up on those I see that warrant closer scrutiny: 

a) entities to consolidate or transfer

1. Clean Water Council and Water Supply Advisory Council

2. NJ Water Supply Authority and North Jersey District Water Supply

3. transfer the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) to DEP

b. entities to eliminate

1. Garden State Preservation Trust

2. Coastal and Ocean Protection Council

3. D&R Canal Commission

4. Interstate Environmental Commission

5. Invasive Species Council (already eliminated by EO #40)

6. Natural Areas Council

7. Noise Control Council

8. Pesticide Control Council

9. Public Access and Marina Safety Task Force

10. Shellfisheries Council

11. Tidelands Resource Council

12. Wetlands Mitigation Council

13. Environmental Advisory Task Force (also slated for elimination under legislation now on Governor’s desk)

14. Lake Restoration and Management Advisory Task Force (already eliminated under EO #40)

15. Council on Environmental Quality

c. entities to “modify

1. Commission on Radiation Protection

2. Fish and Game Council

3. Marine Fisheries Council –

3. Other significant recommended eliminations that are related to the environment

a) NJ Council on Science and Technology  – Department of Treasury recommendation to “dissolve and reconstitute as an Advisory Group to “Choose NJ”

b) State of NJ Technology Governing Board and Office of Information Technology – Department of Treasury recommends “continued suspesion pending review of IT direction”.

Did anyone know this was suspended? Who suspended and why?

And what is the Christie Administration’s “IT direction”? That’s a rather important question, no?

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