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A Bizarre Set of Priorities – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Extreme Weather; Climate Change; Coastal Hazards; DEP De-Regulated Rebuilding; Flawed FEMA Maps; 40 Year Old DEP Flood Maps; Ocean Acidification; Ocean Ecosystem Health; and Fisheries ALL Ignored – while legislation advances on a grocery bag tax

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight reports on yesterday’s Senate Environment Committee hearing on proposed legislation designed to “make grocery shopping green”:

In a move to curb plastic bags from littering the landscape and waterways, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved a bill (S-812) yesterday that would impose a five-cent surcharge on consumers who fail to bring a reusable bag to their grocery or convenience store.

The bill was “applauded” by environmentalists:

Environmentalists have long advocated such legislation, saying that plastic bags washing up in rivers and the ocean pose a big threat to marine life, such as sea turtles and birds, according to Zach McCue, citizen coordinator for Clean Ocean Action, a group dedicated to protecting coastal waters.

During the organization’s beach cleanup program, Clean Ocean Action picked up more than 8,000 plastic bags in just two days, McCue noted. “It will dramatically reduce the consumption of plastic bags,’’ he told the committee of its proposed bill.

Meanwhile, although you wouldn’t be aware of this by reading news reports in NJ environmental circles, on Friday, a decade or more of advocacy has produced a huge victory: new regulations on setting catch limits for Atlantic Menhaden, a critical forage fish and important link in the food chain. The NY Times reported:

Broad Catch Limits Are Put on an Unglamorous but Essential Fish


BALTIMORE — Regulators on Friday voted to reduce the harvest of Atlantic menhaden by 20 percent, placing a broad catch limit on a critical fishery that has until now been largely unregulated.

A small, oily fish — also called bunker or pogy — the Atlantic menhaden is rarely eaten by humans, and little known outside of coastal circles. But for the Atlantic ecosystem as well as commercial and recreational fishermen, it is an essential fish. The question of its management drew hundreds of fishermen, processors and environmentalists to mobilize for a showdown in a windowless ballroom here.

“Menhaden’s one of the linchpins of the near-shore ecosystem in the East Coast,” said Peter Baker, the director of the Northeast fisheries program for the Pew Environment Group, who said that over the past 30 years, the stock of the fishery has fallen about 90 percent.

The fishery had never been subject to catch limits along the entire Atlantic coast — a rarity in contemporary fishery management — allowing fleets to harvest virtually unlimited amounts from the ocean.

“The Wild West fishery that’s been going on with menhaden — to have a fishery that’s essentially been unregulated, it’s unheard of,” said Darren Saletta, the executive director of the Massachusetts Commercial Striped Bass Association.

Well, let’s get back to the Senate Environment Committeee and NJ environmental circles.

When I got the email heads up about the  bill, I initially thought it was one of those really bad jokes on Superstorm Sandy.

Guess not.

But, Superstorm Sandy has lent new meaning to the term “floatables” – houses, boats, boardwalks, arcades, and cars.

Those COA beach litter cleanups and DEP’s “Barnegat Bay Blitz “look somewhat bizarre right now, don’t they?

Maybe the Senate Environment Committee might want to hear bills related to lessons we hopefully all learned by the wakeup call from Sandy?

We need a “Climate Blitz” more than a Barnegat Bay Blitz (litter pickup).

We need “common sense” coastal hazard, vulnerability, adaptation, and rebuild policies, not “common sense” “regulatory relief under Christie EO #2 and DEP issued waivers of flood hazard, CAFRA and wetlands regulations for rebuilding.

We need a vision, a planning process, and a land use plan for the post Sandy shore, not Governor Christie’s “Economic Development Strategy” replacement for the State Plan and appointed “Rebuild Czar” .

Maybe JOINT ENVIRONMENT Committee hearings could conduct legislative oversight of those issues, because we sure aren’t getting any of that from the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee hearings.

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