Home > Uncategorized > DEP Holds Private Shore Rebuilding Meetings – By Invitation Only

DEP Holds Private Shore Rebuilding Meetings – By Invitation Only

DEP Walks Back Claim of “No Role” in Shore Rebuilding

Climate Change Not on DEP’s Agenda

Too Little, Too Late: State Planning Commission and Legislature to Lead

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

DEP has finally acknowledged some responsibility for where and how the Shore is rebuilt.

After DEP Commissioner Martin:1) ignored and swept warnings under the rug; 2) limited storm preparedness to advising Mayors to ignore DEP regulations; 3) followed by Martin’s embarrassing Order deregulating the rebuilding of critical public infrastructure in the exact same vulnerable locations, and 4) followed all that by 2 weeks of denial by DEP of any role in “dictating” (that’s DEP’s word for planning and regulation required by environmental laws) where and how the shore is rebuilt, today Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight reports that DEP is holding shore rebuild meetings:

DEP’s Guest List Leaves Out Toughest Critics - 

Friendlier environmental groups invited to session today on restoring Jersey Shore

The state Department of Environmental Protection is quietly convening a meeting today to discuss issues relating to rebuilding the Jersey Shore with a small group of conservationists.

The session, to be held at DEP headquarters, comes at a time when some environmentalists are suggesting the state needs to radically rethink its policies in the wake of the worst storm ever to hit New Jersey, particularly when it comes to redeveloping the coastal region.

There is wide consensus the state needs to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but smart growth advocates and some environmentalists say it needs to be done in a way that protects coastal communities better from the wide devastation wreaked by the storm.

DEP spokesman Bob Considine described the meeting as an informal session with conservation groups. “It’s just an update on storm issues,’’ he said.

In an e-mail from the DEP to various groups who will be represented at the meeting, however, the session was described not only an as update on Sandy’s efforts but also as a meeting providing input on coastal protection and rebuilding. That issue is likely to become a hotly-discussed topic as the state addresses the enormous issues raised by Hurricane Sandy and its impact on the Shore. [...]

Those invited to the DEP meeting, by and large, have been far less critical of the Christie administration’s environmental policies. They include Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, and Kelly Mooij of the New Jersey Audubon Society.

Count me among the excluded “toughest critics” calling for “radical change”.

[So radical that I’m recommending that the federal taxpayer bailout include the nation’s own barrier islands policy.]

This is the denouement of the Christie/Martin cynical manipulation – the absolute nadir of both Martin’s and the ENGO Fakeholders’ credibility (and the DEP press office is again caught flat out lying).

DEP Commissioner Martin  is now exposed as an irresponsible ideologue by his “reduce red tape” Order deregulating rebuilding of public infrastructure in the exact same vulnerable locations.

[Note: maybe I can point a finer point on this.

Prior to heading up DEP, Martin had no government or environmental experience. None.

He was a retired consultant who made lots of money privatizing public utilities under Margaret Thatcher.

So, it is no surprise that he sees DEP and government as barriers to infrastructure rebuilding. He can’t privatize them, but he can deregulate them by fiat. That’s almost as good as Maggie Thatcher!]

The State Planning Commission rejected the notion that State Government has no role in planning and regulating where and how rebuild occurs.

Even Governor Christie himself – previously drunk on Springsteen and Snooki - was forced to admit that the status quo at the Shore must change, in response to tabling the Christie State Plan: (Star Ledger)

“It made sense for us to put it off and to reconsider it in light of some of the new challenges that have been presented by the storm and the aftermath of the storm,” the governor said.

I previously posed the question:

Do Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver think that the Legislative branch and the people of the state have a seat at the table in developing  a “long term strategy” for the shore?

Or are they going to sit back and defer to Christie’s Cabinet meetings?

Well, we now have an answer: NJ Senate President Sweeney has finally jumped in to the fray, and announced a round of public hearings – not private Fakeholder by invitation only -  (Star Ledger):

Senate leaders plan hearings in Sandy’s worst spots to evaluate government response

TRENTON — A bipartisan group of Senate leaders said Tuesday it plans to hold hearings in the state’s most devastated areas to determine how the government performed before and after Hurricane Sandy churned through New Jersey, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

“We don’t want to point fingers or pass blame,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said in a news release. “We want to know where and how things went wrong and what we need to do to better protect ourselves in the future.”

Let’s hope Senator Sweeney walks the walk and supports a policy solution that refelcts this enlightened statement:

There is a solution to flooding that doesn’t include building levees. Steven Sweeney, president of the New Jersey State Senate, says there’s a community along the Raritan River that flooded last year after Hurricane Irene and this year after Sandy. Here’s what he suggests as a simpler and cheaper way to deal with the problem:

Get appraisals for their homes, write them a check, knock the homes down, and just let it go back to its natural state,” says Sweeney. “I think that’s something we really need to take a look at. Because governments have allowed people to build right onto the water, and water has a tendency to move.”

These private “Fakeholder” meetings are Martin’s  pathetic effort to walk all that back and get in the game.

[Note: and DEP was not only meeting with a few hand oicked “conservationists” – there are other “Fakeholers” involved at more than one meeting.]

But, sorry Bob, its too little and too late – the damage is done and DEP is removed from the adult discussion.

This is the proverbial straw that broke the camels’ back.

DEP has held dozens of “by invitation only” Fakeholder meetings, with hand picked and well fed (i.e. DEP funded) Fakeholders and friends at the table. Take a look, DEP is actually proud of the “by invitation only” approach (I guess its a Republican thing, the elite mentality) (hit this link for a compendium of DEP’s fakeholdery):

DEP Commissioner Martin even took the extraordinary, unprecedented and illegal step of using State Police to eject a critic – yours truly – from the DEP public hearing room, see this.

Chickens now roosting.

Always a reckoning:

There always seemed to be a need

for reckoning in early days.

What came in equaled what went out

like oscillating ocean waves.

Oops, and about that climate change thing?

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  1. Bill Neil
    November 15th, 2012 at 12:37 | #1

    Well, well, the old divide and conquer strategy, with too many greens always willing to go along. I hope you are right Bill, that the legislative hearings are the more democratic and open forum, but we’ll have to see if Senator Sweeney’s comments about misguided building in the flood plains along rivers carries over to the dangerous areas of the coast.

    But I would be remiss in my duties as amateur environmental historian if I did not share with your readers my own first hand sense of these “selective” DEP meetings. Under Republican DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn, the cranberry industry/Ocean Spray was seeking a weakening in our tough freshwater wetlands act, seeking a “general permit” for converting Pinelands wetlands to cranberry bogs. If I recall correctly, the “agreeable and approved” groups for this general permit forum were ANJEC, the NJ Conservation Foundation and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. NJ Audubon was not invited, despite our leadership role under Tom Gilmore in achieving the wetlands law in the first place (Tom and Tom Wells of the NJCF put in incregible amounts of time in winning the legislation…)…

    Its always a bad sign when such cleavages and selectivity turn up in processes that should be much more inclusive. NJ Audubon was upset not so much at being excluded, although that sense was certainly a factor, but from the basic reality that this was a scheme to weaken a law early in its history, setting precedents that would not be confined to just the cranberry industry. Irony of ironies – this was unfolding in the 1993-1996 years – Ocean Spray, the “cooperative” that was trying to weaken federal wetlands laws as well as state ones by outrageous amounts of poltical $ to both parties and intensive lobbying from Washinton firms – was stating, despite their already considerable success breaking into the lower ranks of the Fortune 500 – or was it 100, I forget – they were saying that only a limited supply of cranberries was holding them back from even greater economic feats. So they got the additional supplies and guess what? They had an old fashined capitalist over production glut-”crash”: prices collapsed and it was the small growers who got clobbered. That was the first economic “bubble” I lived through (oops, second: I forgot the office supply glut of the late 1980′s…) and in my analysis it was entirely self-inflicted. We’ll never know what the interior arguments inside Ocean Spray were; common sense said that at a time when the fruit juice market was crowded with new exotic flavors from increased world trade, what made Ocean Spray think they could displace orange juice, change consumer tastes of long standing? Of course, I always wondered whether they were reacting to the break away co-operative members from the upper midwest – Northland if I’m not mistaken – who were challenging them? Were they going to use the classic tactic of driving down prices to drive the new competitors out? We’ll never know. In my mind now, in light of recent economic events, its a great illustration of how markets become dominated by a few key players and their own illusions lead to great harm…in this case Ocean Spray was not big enough to effect the broader economy…

    And how about the other famous incident of divide and conquer: the old PSEG cooling towers controversy on the Delaware Bay, when instead of building the towers they offered wetlands mitigation and creation projects to the Nature Conservancy under Mike Catania, NJ Audubon and the Conservation Foundation, angering the groups left out who wanted the towers…but enough for now…powerful establishments have always been gifted at these tactic,and nothing much has changed in the environmental community which is often so dependent for funding and projects on the econonomic powers behind the bad proposals. One reason greens ought to read Naomi Klein, among many others. I’m trying to think if I ever worked on an environmental issue that didn’t lead back to the economic powers that be and their usually opposing interest. At the coast as with global warming, you know who has been winning. So who said the market always knows best, is always rational, the sum of all existing knowledge?

  1. November 28th, 2012 at 15:39 | #1
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