“Bobby” Thinks He’s Doing a “Heck of a Job!”
- New Jersey was well prepared for Sandy, said Martin, the DEP chief. “While unfortunately some lives were lost, by and large we protected the state, we protected thousands of lives and lots of homes and lots of property overall and again we’ve done a great job with that and the Governor provided great leadership overall.” ~~~ WNYC Critics: Christie Deep-Sixed Climate Change Prep (12/7/12)
- It is beyond shortsighted and recklessly foolish to reduce coastal flood protections at a time when global warming science is telling us that there will be sea level rise and an increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms. ~~~ Bill Wolfe (8/20/10) “Alert: More Political Science Coming to DEP” written in response to Press Of Atlantic City story: Department of Environmental Protection to consider allowing decrease in Atlantic City dunes height
The issue of the role of dunes in protecting against storm surge has gotten a lot of media play recently, so I thought I’d remind folks of two important things: first, that natural dunes are not beach replenishment and second, not so long ago, DEP was favorably considering proposals to LOWER dune heights to enhance “visual access to the waterfront” (hit the links above for that story).
Of course, this and other DEP failures were all forgotten by last Monday, when DEP Commissioner Martin testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on DEP’s role in Sandy preparation and emergency response.
I wrote a set up piece for that hearing, in hopes that Legislators or the press might ask some of the tough questions I posed and hold the Christie Administration accountable for major policy failures that contributed directly to the Sandy disaster (see: DEP to Face Legislative Oversight on Sandy Today) (and I didn’t even focus on the global warming rollbacks!)
I attended that Senate hearing and started to write a post about it, but, given the abysmal performance, just got too damned depressed to finish it (those with strong stomach’s can watch the hearing here).
So, let’s do the Cliff Notes version and just say that – aside from: 1) one good question by Senator Gordon on DEP’s failure to adopt updates to flood maps that are based on 40 year old data; 2) one good question from Senator Greenstein about whether Martin and the Gov. felt that the legislature had a role in developing policy on a rebuild strategy; and 3) clear warnings from Senator Beck about the risks from the rush to rebuild, particualrly in light of upcoming new FEMA flood elevations – the sparsely attended hearing was a total disaster.
Chairman Sarlo threw in the towel at the outset.
First, he warned his colleagues to consider the “real money” costs and impacts on the private sector. Second, in response to Senator Weinberg’s recommendations about mandating several emergency measures by legislation, he admonished them to respect government’s (limited) role.
But perhaps worst of all, Sarlo revealed that the legislature has become irrelevant – a political appendage of the Governor’s Office.
Sarlo surrendered and circumscribed the Legislature’s power by conceding that any Legislative package would consist only of “bills the Governor will sign”.
Getting back to the DEP testimony: Not only were no tough questions asked, but drooling Republican knuckleddraggers like Senators Oroho (R-ALEC) and Cardinale (R-Bergen) used it to bash “red tape” and to extract additional commitments by DEP Commissioner Martin to “relax” the Flood Hazard (stream encroachment) regulations.
Cardinale even called the streams of Bergen County merely “drainage ditches” that serve as a “stormwater drainage system” and then attacked the DEP professionals who seek to protect streams adn enforce flood hazard and water quality laws. Oroho agreed with Cardinale, and went on to take credit for crafting Martin’s Order on deregulation in response to Hurricane Irene.
Remarkably, DEP Commissioner Martin refused to defend environmental law or his Department or staff from this sham attack.
Instead, he nodded and grunted in assent to these attacks, expressed regret that he could only do certain rollbacks under his emergency powers, and then pledged to “relax” the flood hazard regulations soon.
Unfortunately, none of this or my questions got any media attention.
No one picked up on the significance of Martin’s testimony, which admitted widespread failures at drinking water and sewer plants.
DEP failed to prepare or enforce existing vulnerability and emergency planning requirements and then, to mask that failure, they essentially lied to the public because they did not disclose any of the sewage and water outages as they were occurring and would only confirm the Passaic and Middlesex sewage plant outages.
DEP issued several press releases at the time, all of which failed to mention the larger problem – how can the public believe anything they say?
I knew the problem was far more severe, and called DEP out at the time with this:
But, on a positive note, WNYC did a related story: Critics: Christie Deep-Sixed Climate Change Prep.
I expect that a subtle but supreme irony in that story will be lost on readers.
The story quotes Governor Christie recognizing Rutgers’ work on climate change:
“I know there are some folks at Rutgers who are looking at whether climate caused all this, but I certainly haven’t been briefed in the last year, year-and-a-half on this,” Christie told WNYC’s Bob Hennelly last month.
But, I guess the Gov. is not aware that Commissioner Martin abolished the DEP Offices of Climate Change and Policy and Planning. Now, the two DEP professionals who headed those Offices are at Rutgers working on the very climate change mitigation and adaptation planning work that DEP abandoned and has failed to implement:
Thrift is an issue Christie is comfortable talking about. Climate science isn’t. As Sandy was bearing down on the region , WNYC’s Bob Hennelly asked Christie if the Governor was discussing the increasing severity of storms with climate change scientists.
“No, that’s over my head.,” Christie replied.
That’s been Christie’s approach to questions about climate change. Once he said he was “skeptical.” When he was pressed about the increasing severity of storms, he maintained he’s a lawyer, not a scientist.
“But that’s what we have an academic community to do is to think about those bigger issues and if those experts have an answer for me, my door is always open to listen to them,” Christie said.
Several of the people who lost their jobs when the Office of Climate Change was cut now work in academia — at Rutgers University.
Yup, climate change is over the Governor and DEP Commissioner Martin’s head.
But, hey, they’re doing a hack of a job!