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DEP Using Sandy To Expand “Prescribed Burns” In State Forests

February 28th, 2013 2 comments

DEP Ignores Legislative Debate on Forest Stewardship

Is there no “public” involvement in DEP decisions on how to manage Public Lands?

The practice of so called “prescribed burns” in state forests and public lands is controversial, see:.

Legislation that would authorize expansion of prescribed burns as a “forest stewardship” management tool (S1085 [SCS]) passed the Senate last June 25, 2012, but is stalled in the Assembly.

During testimony on that bill, forestry experts, ecologists, public advocates and Legislators did not reach consensus on the scope of the “controlled burn program” and they did not consider air quality and public health impacts.

There was consensus that prescribed burns were an effective management tool for Pinelands forests, but there was disagreement on whether they were effective and appropriate for northern NJ’s hardwood forests, which are surrounded by dense populations and developed towns that suffer poor air quality already.

That Senate “forest stewardship” bill supports controlled burns as a management technique, and would direct DEP to:

The Department of Environmental Protection shall develop a program to provide for the active stewardship of forest on State-owned lands. Under the program, the stewardship of State- owned forested lands shall be directed by the State Forester in accordance with a forest stewardship plan adopted pursuant to subsection b. of this section that provides for sustainable forest stewardship activities to preserve forest resources and enhance the benefits provided by the forest.

b. The department shall:

[(1) - (8)]

(9) establish standards for the use of prescribed burns as a resource protection and forest stewardship technique where appropriate;  

Let’s repeat that: “where appropriate” logically means that there are places where it is not.

But the bill has not passed.

DEP has not adopted a forest stewardship program.

DEP has not adopted a forest stewardship plan.

Appropriate forests for controlled burns have not been selected.

There are no “standards” or effective ecological or air quality safeguards and controls in place on the DEP’s historic ”controlled burn” program.

The public has had no voice in DEP’s forest management decisions.

Given all that and the pending legislation, one would think DEP would honor that debate, lay low, and go slow with prescribed burns.

One would be wrong.

DEP is expanding the practices – and cynically using damage from Superstorm Sandy as cover for that.

A decision DEP announces today as a fait accompli by arrogant decree in a press release:

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES ANNUAL WORK UNDER WAY TO IMPROVE FOREST SAFETY AND HEALTH

Sandy Debris in Forests Increases the Need for Prescribed Burns This Season

(13/P14) TRENTON – Winter prescribed burns, an integral part of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service’s wildfire risk reduction strategy, are under way throughout the state, with an additional need this year due to felled trees and forest debris caused by Superstorm Sandy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said today.

“Prescribed burning is part of a planned strategy that the Forest Fire Service uses to manage natural fuels including undergrowth and fallen branches and trees, which helps to reduce the size and severity of wildfires,” Commissioner Martin said. “Prescribed burns help protect lives, property and improve the overall health of our forests. This year, it’s even more important to take this preventative action because the forest floor across our state is filled with downed trees caused by Sandy.” …

State crews conducted prescribed burns starting last week at Stafford Forge, Greenwood and Peaslee wildlife management areas in Ocean and Cumberland counties, and at Brendan Byrne State Forest in Burlington County and Allaire State Park in Monmouth County.

How can you negotiate in good faith with DEP when they do stuff like this?

“Planned strategy”? Where’s the plan, Bob?

Is there no “public” involvement in decisions on how to manage Public Lands?

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Is Gov. Christie Jeopardizing Receipt of Federal Sandy Relief Money?

February 28th, 2013 No comments

AshBritt is the Tip of the $60 Billion Sandy Relief  Iceberg

Christie Rebuild Plans Are Inconsistent With Federal Policy

Will That Reduce NJ’s Share or Delay Federal Relief Money?

Is Christie Repeating The Race to the Top Fiasco?

The risk is, as I said at the time, if you don’t use one of these companies who are experienced in dealing with FEMA paperwork and the FEMA bureaucracy, that if you don’t make your request right, you’re not going to get reimbursed” Christie said.  ~~~  Asbury Park Press, 2/28/13

Bob Jordan of the Asbury Park Press raises an interesting issue in his story today on the AshBritt  scandal: Watchdog: AshBritt towns don’t get funds faster

Jordan quotes an important point the Gov. made at his February 5, 2013 Union Beach press conference. Jordan wrote:

AshBritt officials promised more certainty in reimbursements and Christie concurred during a Feb. 5 news conference in Union Beach, saying he believed that was a good selling point for AshBritt.

“The risk is, as I said at the time, if you don’t use one of these companies who are experienced with dealing with FEMA paperwork and the FEMA bureaucracy, that if you don’t make your request right, you’re not going to get reimbursed,” Christie said.

The Gov. is technically correct!

If you don’t make the request correctly, you risk either slower or less than full reimbursement.

Gov. Christie knows all about that! He previously lost $400 million in federal education funding for exactly that reason.

But, that is no justification for AshBritt, however. Government employees can correctly fill out forms, you don’t need high priced $100 million no bid consultant contracts to political cronies.

More importantly, Gov. Christie’s observation about the risks of timely and full FEMA reimbursement are much broader, and apply to all federal reimbursements and all federal relief money in general.

If NJ does not make  the request correctly, then NJ may not receive its fair share of federal funds and the disbursement of funds may be delayed or reduced from the amount they could have been.

The $60 billion Sandy relief federal appropriations legislation requires that NJ submit plans to various federal Department’s, e.g. FEMA, HUD, et al for funding.

The federal Department’s must review and approve NJ’s proposed plans for the expenditure of federal relief funds.

If NJ’s rebuild plans are inconsistent with or in conflict with federal policy or regulations, then NJ may not get full federal money (e.g. more could go to NY, where former HUD Secretary Cuomo knows the inside game and is submitting plans that reflect Obama’s policy).

Or federal money might be delayed as federal agencies scrutinize NJ’s plans – or not provided at all.

For example, with limited funds available, the feds may choose to fund retrofit the NY subway system that serves millions of people every day, rather than Gov. Christie’s plans to build roads on barrier islands, or provide grants to businesses, or rebuild summer homes in dangerous locations.

I recently wrote about the specific Obama Executive Order and FEMA policies that Christie is ignoring – while Cuomo is shaping his plan to be consistent with federal policy, see:

And ust how does Gov. Christie plan actually propose to spend federal relief money?

Is the Governor’s rush to rebuild jeopardizing NJ’s ability to secure federal Sandy relief funds?

We think that’s a real possibility that should be looked at closely by legislators and the press corps.

Of course, the AshBritt scandal itself – and NJ’s history of corruption and pay to play – is likely to increase scrutiny of NJ’s plans for federal money.

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Gov. Christie’s Budget Priorities: Warped

February 27th, 2013 1 comment

Not One Word on Climate Change, Environment, Renewable Energy, Coastal Planning, Open Space, or Parks

Doubles Down on “Rebuild Madness” -  ”at maximum speed” - ”regardless of federal timelines”

Instead, Christie champions austerity, dismantling of government, and corporate welfare

 NJ has become a place where Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Opra, MTV, and Snooki drive policy

I feel compelled to offer a few words on Gov. Christie’s budget speech (full text here, for those who can stomach it)

The headline above pretty much sums up the lowlights, and for an expansion of that, read Tom Johnson’s article over at NJ Spotlight, see:

 Christie’s Spending-Plan Priorities Have ‘Green’ Community Seeing Red - Governor pays little attention to environmental issues while again tapping into clean-energy fund to help balance budget

Tom hits the nail on the head and adds important information not in the Gov.’s speech, but in his proposed budget, most disturbingly this:

there was not a word about what the state will do to combat climate change, only four months after the worst storm in 100 years devastated wide sections of the state’s coast.

Christie’s proposed budget once again raids a ratepayer-financed fund of $152 million used to promote energy efficiency and cleaner ways of producing electricity, steps clean-energy advocates say are vital to achieving the state’s aggressive goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Not that the move was unexpected. Since taking office, Christie already has tapped New Jersey’s clean-energy funds for more than $680 million, steps approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, to plug holes in the state budget.

This is astonishing and remarkably irresponsible - and actually a far worse policy than the far right wing climate change deniers.

The radical climate deniers are blocking progress - that’s bad enough, but Christie is dismantling existing effective programs. 

Christie would steal $832 million in clean energy money – in part to pay for $1.57 BILLION in tax subsidies to corporations, like Goldman Sachs.

That’s intolerable and the Democrats simply must restore those clean energy funds in the final budget they vote for.

There were a few other aspects of the speech that I thought hit new lows:

  • With former Gov.’s Byrne, Florio, and DeFrancesco present and staring him right in the face, he called them liars:

Those who were supposed to be responsible for controlling taxes and spending before we came to office fundamentally deceived the people of our state. They said yes to everything — yes to higher taxes. Yes to more spending. We must not return to that era of recklessness and deceit.

Gov. Byrne’s a fighting Irishman, but a little over the hill to take on our morbidly obese Governor.

But Jim Florio was a boxer in the Navy, still looks fit, and one would assume he’d like to kick Christie’ ass for that disgraceful smear.

  • Christie learned absolutely nothing and is repeating mistakes of the past. Instead, he doubled down on Sandy “Rebuild Madness”

The Governor’s remarks here are quite disturbing – I highlight the troubling text in boldface, and will break down their meaning for policy:

I want to make sure we can move ahead quickly, and without endangering resources for other key priorities.

So today, I am proposing the establishment of a $40 million Sandy contingency fund for those expenses not reimbursed by the federal government. This will ensure that we can move ahead with maximum speed, and that those things that fall through the cracks do not bankrupt families, businesses or local governments.

This will allow us to get small businesses back on their feet, without delay.

It will allow us to continue to make progress on restoring key roads and infrastructure, regardless of federal timelines.

It will help us rebuild the shore. I grew up going to the shore every summer, and I still do. It is the heart of New Jersey. It still beats strong, in every one of us.

The shore will come back — as I’ve said, it will come back stronger than ever. And I will tell you this: I expect to go the Jersey Shore every summer for the rest of my life, including this summer of 2013.

Here’s why those statements are so disturbing:

1. The rush to rebuild is driving out any policy discussion of climate change and planning for adaptation and coastal “resilience”. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

2. The Gov. is proposing to use state and federal relief money for GRANTS to business, presumably including lost profits. This is totally unacceptable when thousands of people are homeless, living in hotels, and critical natural resources are not restored. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

3. “Small business” is not defined – there are no policies, plans, or oversight of how “small business” assistance will actually be implemented. This cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

4. Christie’s policy of rebuild “at maximum speed” “regardless of federal timelinesis inconsistent with federal policy and may even violate federal regulations, thereby jeopardizing allocation of and timely and full receipt of federal money.

[Update 2/28/13 – Gov. Christie’s warning about risks of not qualifying for full FEMA reimbursements is exactly the risk the Gov. is taking by pursuing “Rebuild Madness”. I was at this Union Beach press conference where today’s APP quotes the Gov.:

“The risk is, as I said at the time, if you don’t use one of these companies who are experienced with dealing with FEMA paperwork and the FEMA bureaucracy, that if you don’t make your request right, you’re not going to get reimbursed,” Christie said.

This all cries out for legislative and public oversight BEFORE these decisions are made.

  • The continuing attacks on government are a disgrace

The Governor continued his ideological attack on government – he used the word “government” 20 times, perhaps his most frequently used word – and it was all attack, all the time:

Now, the results are clear. New Jersey has turned around, and is growing again.

What hasn’t grown is government. In fact, government has shrunk. Today there are 5,200 fewer state government employees than when we took office. In fact, there are over 20,000 fewer government employees across all levels of government. We promised smaller government to our people and we delivered.

Aside from the deep contradiction in the fact that the Governor’s favorable public opinion polls are driven – exclusively - by his use of government in responding to Sandy, there’s a much deeper and disturbing thing going on.

Christie didn’t talk about and may have rhetorically backed away from his controversial and unpopular privatization or deregulation policies. But he is quietly implementing those policies (e.g. see Christie Executive Orders on both, EO #2 on “regulatory relief” and EO # 17 on privatization.

There is loads of evidence that the Governor’s policies undermined the capacity of State government to prevent, plan for, and respond to Sandy, a storm that scientists and DEP experts had warned about for years, see:

This should be a huge scandal and prompt investigative media and legislative oversight.

But the Gov. has been given a pass on all that.

Even the scandal that was reported – the AshBritt politically connected no bid $100 million contract – has failed to note the fact that Gov. Christie was forced to rely on political connections to manage storm response because he reduced the priority of and dismantled States programs to plan and prepare for storm events.

Similarly, Christie has rhetorically backed away from his discredited “job killing red tape” attacks under Executive Order #3, but the policy fallout continues.

And in addition to all that, under Gov. Christie, NJ has become a place where Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah fund and drive education policy, not government.

Where MTV and Snooki fund and drive coastal protection policy, not government.

We are a national joke.

[End Note: why does no one call BS on the fact that this statement is internally contradictory: how can both Christie assertions be true at the same time: 1) The Affordable Care Act is bad for NJ; 2) I sign up for and accept ACA funding and base judgments based on what is best for NJ?

NY Times story:

“Let me be clear: I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act,” the governor said. “I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans.”

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Climate Context Ignored – EPA Clean Air Settlement Forces Closure of 3 Midwestern Coal Units

February 26th, 2013 No comments

EPA Settlement Foreshadows Upcoming Battle On Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From 500 Existing Power Plants

Settlement Comes As New Obama EPA Administrator To Face Confirmation

Victory for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign – 142 Coal Plants Shut Down Thus Far

But Can A “New Source Review” Strategy Do The Job and Shut Down Dinosaur Coal Plants?

“”The closures would reduce AEP’s emissions by 84,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per year plus 12 million tons of carbon dioxide, a key global warming gas, the parties announced.”

The three coal-fired plants are “dirty and outdated plants that should have been cleaned up or retired decades ago,” said Shannon Fisk, an attorney for the Sierra Club. “We’re glad AEP is going to retire these aging dinosaurs.”  Akron BeaconAEP to stop burning coal at Ohio coal-fired power plant, two others under revised clean-air agreement  (2/26/13)

 

EPA just announced a modified settlement with major midwestern coal power plants.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 25, 2013 (ENS) – The U.S. EPA, eight states and 13 citizens groups have reached an agreement with American Electric Power that requires the nation’s largest power company to cut air pollution at 16 of its coal-fired power plants across the Midwest and South.

The settlement comes in a lawsuit originally filed in a federal court in Ohio in 1999 and is a modification of a prior 2007 settlement in a federal-multistate air pollution lawsuit.

Is it a good deal? What does it mean?

Will it serve as a model for EPA’s upcoming regulatory strategy to existing power plants?

(with modest GHG emissions reductions, trade-offs, economic benefits for polluters, compliance delays, and 200 MW of renewable energy, it surely smells a lot like the kind of compromise presented in NRDC’s December Report. NRDC suggested that their Report was the template for EPA regulation)

Yes, the EPA’s proposed modified settlement with midwestern coal power plants will reduce current pollution emissions.

But the pollutant reductions under the settlement are:

  • actually LESS than the original prior 2007 settlement agreement; 
  • will save the polluter over $1 BILLION in compliance cost under the 2007 settlement; and 
  • allows 43 other units at 16 other dinosaur coal plants to continue operating and delay retirement for an even longer period of time

The environmental benefits of the deal involve two things:

1) traditional SOx, NOx, and PM pollutant emissions reductions are lower, but they will come earlier; and

2) greenhouse gas emissions benefits: 3 coal plants will be shut down or switch fuel to allegedly less carbon intensive natural gas, leading to an estimated 12 million tons in CO2 emissions reductions.

So, in evaluating the merits of the revised settlement, the first question becomes:

Is a 12 million ton CO2 reduction from those 3 units – with a $1 billion windfall savings to the polluter – worth allowing 43 other dinosaur coal units to continue massive GHG emissions and to delay retirement for another generation?

Has this question been framed in news accounts?

From a Quick Google, it is apparent that news reports in the northeastern states involved in the settlement have focused almost exclusively on the alleged reductions in traditional pollutants, SOx, NOx and paticulate matter (e.g. typical story from NJ:  N.J. to get $700,000 in pollution deal)

Those news reports sharply contrast with other states, particularly the coal states, where the deal is perceived as a threat to coal and coverage leads with the shutdown of the coal plants (e.g. typical story from Ohio:. American Electric Power to stop burning coal

And virtually all news reports – regardless of geography – , like Governor Christie’s press release, make no mention of the climate change and GHG emissions/existing power plant elephants in the room.

Obviously, Gov. Christie has an incentive to dodge the climate implications of the settlement, given his horrible record on climate change.

So, the real significance of the EPA settlement is being downplayed or ignored – both on its comparative merits viz a vis the 2007 Settlement and for its larger climate change context.

The larger context – those climate change elephants in the room - are

  • the upcoming EPA regulatory strategy for greenhouse gas emissions from 500 existing power plants; and
  • how this settlement plays out in the confirmation battle over Obama’s new EPA Administrator
  • how this settlement is received by the new “Climate Movement” – Bill McKibben’s Keystone XL Campaign

EPA GHG Regulatory Strategy in Obama’s Second Term

Will EPA rely on the same “modest” GHG regulatory strategy announced in Obama’s first term, a strategy that assumed that the real significant GHG reductions would come from a cap/trade program enacted by Congress?

Politically, by design, that “modest” EPA regulatory strategy was intended to be a small bore, incremental, low cost program to avoid alienating industry and Republicans in the hope of cultivating bi-partisan support for a cap & trade bill in Congress.

But, now that Congress has rejected cap/trade, Tea Party climate denial Republicans control the House,  and the recently announced Sanders/Boxer “fee/rebate” ”Gold Standard” climate bill in the US Senate has little support, the question becomes:

will EPA retain the Obama first term “modest” regulatory strategy in light of no chance for Congressional action?

Or will EPA go large?

This settlement sheds both regulatory and political light on that question and is a signal of the upcoming battle over GHG emissions from over 500 existing power plants.

I)  Background

Technically, the EPA Revised Settlement involves a Clean Air Act “New Source Review” enforcement case that began way back in 1999, when EPA filed enforcement complaints on November 3, 1999. In that complaint, EPA alleged that AEP:

made major modifications to major emitting facilities, and failed to obtain the necessary permits and install the controls necessary under the Act to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and/or particulate matter emissions, and further alleged that such emissions damage human health and the environment;

That initial enforcement case resulted in a December 10, 2007 Settlement Agreement, that the Justice Department and US EPA called the largest ever.

(Eight northeastern states, including NJ, intervened in December 1999 - that was during the Whitman Administration, so current Gov. Christie is taking credit for the work of his predecessors, not his Administration)

Technically, the primary regulated pollutants of concern in the case are Sox, NOx and PM (particulates), which adversely impact public health and ecosystems.

But the most significant pollutant of concern is CO2 – and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change – is not part of the settlement.

The EPA regulatory strategy for GHG emissions reductions from over 500 existing power plants will rely on the same provision of the Clean Air Act that has been used for these NSR enforcement cases that have dragged on for years.

This real issue this case brings into question is whether the current EPA NSR regulatory strategy can effectively reduce GHG emissions from over 500 existing coal power plants.  

We don’t think so.

More to follow on that in future posts (until then, see:

II)  New EPA Administrator’s Confirmation

The next elephant in the room is how this settlement will impact the confirmation debate for Obama’s second term EPA Administrator.

Of course, legislators from coal producing and coal burning states will see this as another example of Obama’s “War on Coal” (despite the fact that it shuts or forces refueling of just 3 of 46 coal units).

Environmentalists are likely to exaggerate the implications (despite the fact that it shuts or forces refueling of just 3 of 46 coal units).

Will the new EPA candidate duck this fight?

Will beltway environmentalists play it straight and honestly present the implications? (see Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign)

How will the newly emergent “Climate Movement”  respond to this set of regulatory and political issues?

Stay tuned.

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Here’s What We Should Be Doing and Talking About on Sandy Recovery

February 24th, 2013 2 comments

Why Are Governor Christie and DEP Ignoring Their Responsibilities?

Why Are Legislators and Media Giving Them A Pass on All That?

Here’s What the Public Needs to Know

One of the objectives of this blog is to provide information to empower the public and hold government officials accountable.

So, because there is a virtual blackout out in media and government circles (and muted private conversations and feel good measures in some environmental group circles), I figured I’d post today on what the federal policy framework says we should be doing in response to Sandy (a particularly important issue, because the feds are providing billions of dollars in taxpayer money, so obviously they want it spent in accordance with federal policy).

This will be a long and in the weeds post that addresses:

There seems to be a combination of misguided priorities, confusion, or lack or knowledge about that.

To respond effectively, I called for the formation of a Coastal Commission, outlined a response strategy, and severely criticized Governor Christie’s failure to learn any lessons from Sandy in terms of global warming or coastal land use planning. I have called Christie’s responses “Rebuild Madness”.

But Gov. Christie is not alone – many NJ Legislators, local officials, business groups, media, and residents either support the Christie agenda or simply are unaware of alternatives or what we should be doing.

Perhaps my harsh rhetoric has obscured the planning and policy issues at stake, or undermined my credibility.

So, I thought I’d lay out, in one place, a more detailed technical summary of what we should be doing –  here it is, so don’t say you don’t understand complex “red tape”:

1. Federal regulations set minimum standards and encourage States to be more stringent

The FEMA ABFE maps are under political attack and so is Gov. Christie’s move to adopt those maps under NJ law as DEP Emergency Regulations.

FEMA regulations explain that FEMA is the minimum standard and encourage states to be stricter.

NJ is highly vulnerable and should be going beyond federal minimums -but Gov. Christie strongly discourages going beyond federal minimums in his “regulatory relief” Executive Order #2.

Here’s the FEMA rule:

Subpart A—Requirements for Flood Plain Management Regulations

§60.1Purpose of subpart.

[(a) - (c)]

(d) The criteria set forth in this subpart are minimum standards for the adoption of flood plain management regulations by flood-prone, mudslide (i.e., mudflow)-prone and flood-related erosion-prone communities. Any community may exceed the minimum criteria under this part by adopting more comprehensive flood plain management regulations utilizing the standards such as contained in subpart C of this part. In some instances, community officials may have access to information or knowledge of conditions that require, particularly for human safety, higher standards than the minimum criteria set forth in subpart A of this part. Therefore, any flood plain management regulations adopted by a State or a community which are more restrictive than the criteria set forth in this part are encouraged and shall take precedence. (FEMA Regs)

2.  Federal regulations discourage infrastructure in flood prone locations

Federal regulations discourage infrastructure in flood prone locations.

But Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner Bob Martin issued an Administrative Order that deregulated the rebuilding of infrastructure – a reckless policy Professor Miller described thusly:

‘Hey, if you want to build it back the way it was, go for it, you don’t have to wait for us to approve that,’

Again, here are FEMA  regulations, which are impossible to implement under DEP Commissioner Martin’s Order that deregulates infrastructure rebuilding from DEP permit review:

(5) Require within flood-prone areas new and replacement water supply systems to be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of flood waters into the systems; and

(6) Require within flood-prone areas (i) new and replacement sanitary sewage systems to be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of flood waters into the systems and discharges from the systems into flood waters and (ii) onsite waste disposal systems to be located to avoid impairment to them or contamination from them during flooding.

3. Federal Regulations Encourage Comprehensive Planning and Risk Reduction

Gov. Christie wants to “rebuild now!” and has opposed proposed legislation to establish a Coastal Commission to plan for the shore.

At the same time, DEP has been ordered to stand down, and has totally abdicated its lead State agency responsibilities for the critically important planning and regulatory work outlined below.

So, here’s 23 specific things what we should be doing on the planning and regulatory fronts at the State level (a State is defined as a “community” in FEMA regs):

§ 60.22Planning considerations for flood-prone areas.

(a) The flood plain management regulations adopted by a community for flood-prone areas should:

(1) Permit only that development of flood-prone areas which (i) is appropriate in light of the probability of flood damage and the need to reduce flood losses, (ii) is an acceptable social and economic use of the land in relation to the hazards involved, and (iii) does not increase the danger to human life;

(2) Prohibit nonessential or improper installation of public utilities and public facilities in flood-prone areas.

b) In formulating community development goals after the occurrence of a flood disaster, each community shall consider—

(1) Preservation of the flood-prone areas for open space purposes;

(2) Relocation of occupants away from flood-prone areas;

(3) Acquisition of land or land development rights for public purposes consistent with a policy of minimization of future property losses;

(4) Acquisition of frequently flood-damaged structures;

(c) In formulating community development goals and in adopting flood plain management regulations, each community shall consider at least the following factors—

(1) Human safety;

(2) Diversion of development to areas safe from flooding in light of the need to reduce flood damages and in light of the need to prevent environmentally incompatible flood plain use;

(3) Full disclosure to all prospective and interested parties (including but not limited to purchasers and renters) that (i) certain structures are located within flood-prone areas, (ii) variances have been granted for certain structures located within flood-prone areas, and (iii) premium rates applied to new structures built at elevations below the base flood substantially increase as the elevation decreases;

(4) Adverse effects of flood plain development on existing development;

(5) Encouragement of floodproofing to reduce flood damage;

(6) Flood warning and emergency preparedness plans;

(7) Provision for alternative vehicular access and escape routes when normal routes are blocked or destroyed by flooding;

(8) Establishment of minimum floodproofing and access requirements for schools, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, penal institutions, fire stations, police stations, communications centers, water and sewage pumping stations, and other public or quasi-public facilities already located in the flood-prone area, to enable them to withstand flood damage, and to facilitate emergency operations;

(9) Improvement of local drainage to control increased runoff that might increase the danger of flooding to other properties;

(10) Coordination of plans with neighboring community’s flood plain management programs;

(11) The requirement that all new construction and substantial improvements in areas subject to subsidence be elevated above the base flood level equal to expected subsidence for at least a ten year period;

(12) For riverine areas, requiring subdividers to furnish delineations for floodways before approving a subdivision;

(13) Prohibition of any alteration or relocation of a watercourse, except as part of an overall drainage basin plan. In the event of an overall drainage basin plan, provide that the flood carrying capacity within the altered or relocated portion of the watercourse is maintained;

(14) Requirement of setbacks for new construction within Zones V1-30, VE, and V on a community’s FIRM;

(15) Requirement of additional elevation above the base flood level for all new construction and substantial improvements within Zones A1-30, AE, V1-30, and VE on the community’s FIRM to protect against such occurrences as wave wash and floating debris, to provide an added margin of safety against floods having a magnitude greater than the base flood, or to compensate for future urban development;

(16) Requirement of consistency between state, regional and local comprehensive plans and flood plain management programs;

(17) Requirement of pilings or columns rather than fill, for the elevation of structures within flood-prone areas, in order to maintain the storage capacity of the flood plain and to minimize the potential for negative impacts to sensitive ecological areas;

(18) Prohibition, within any floodway or coastal high hazard area, of plants or facilities in which hazardous substances are manufactured.

(19) Requirement that a plan for evacuating residents of all manufactured home parks or subdivisions located within flood prone areas be developed and filed with and approved by appropriate community emergency management authorities.

4. Federal regulations encourage states to prevent harms

Gov. Christie has not even mentioned directing development away from hazardous locations (strategic retreat), and opposes buyouts of flood prone properties, unless an entire community has reached a consensus.

That is totally inconsistent with federal policy.

§ 60.24 – Planning considerations for flood-related erosion-prone areas.

The planning process for communities identified under part 65 of this subchapter as containing Zone E or which indicate in their applications for flood insurance coverage pursuant to § 59.22 of this subchapter that they have flood-related erosion areas should include -

(a) The importance of directing future developments to areas not exposed to flood-related erosion;

(b) The possibility of reserving flood-related erosion-prone areas for open space purposes;

(c) The coordination of all planning for the flood-related erosion-prone areas with planning at the State and Regional levels, and with planning at the level of neighboring communities;

(d) Preventive action in E zones, including setbacks, shore protection works, relocating structures in the path of flood-related erosion, and community acquisition of flood-related erosion-prone properties for public purposes;

(e) Consistency of plans for flood-related erosion-prone areas with comprehensive plans at the state, regional and local levels.

5. Federal regulations encourage State leadership

Here is the State role under the federal framework – is Governor Christie and DEP doing any of this?

§ 60.25 - Designation, duties, and responsibilities of State Coordinating Agencies.

(a) States are encouraged to demonstrate a commitment to the minimum flood plain management criteria set forth in §§ 60.3, 60.4, and 60.5 as evidenced by the designation of an agency of State government to be responsible for coordinating the Program aspects of flood plain management in the State.

(b) State participation in furthering the objectives of this part shall include maintaining capability to perform the appropriate duties and responsibilities as follows:

(1) Enact, whenever necessary, legislation enabling counties and municipalities to regulate development within flood-prone areas;

(2) Encourage and assist communities in qualifying for participation in the Program;

(3) Guide and assist county and municipal public bodies and agencies in developing, implementing, and maintaining local flood plain management regulations;

(4) Provide local governments and the general public with Program information on the coordination of local activities with Federal and State requirements for managing flood-prone areas;

(5) Assist communities in disseminating information on minimum elevation requirements for development within flood-prone areas;

(6) Assist in the delineation of riverine and coastal flood-prone areas, whenever possible, and provide all relevant technical information to the Federal Insurance Administrator;

(7) Recommend priorities for Federal flood plain management activities in relation to the needs of county and municipal localities within the State;

(8) Provide notification to the Federal Insurance Administrator in the event of apparent irreconcilable differences between a community’s local flood plain management program and the minimum requirements of the Program;

(9) Establish minimum State flood plain management regulatory standards consistent with those established in this part and in conformance with other Federal and State environmental and water pollution standards for the prevention of pollution during periods of flooding;

(10) Assure coordination and consistency of flood plain management activities with other State, areawide, and local planning and enforcement agencies;

(11) Assist in the identification and implementation of flood hazard mitigation recommendations which are consistent with the minimum flood plain management criteria for the Program;

(12) Participate in flood plain management training opportunities and other flood hazard preparedness programs whenever practicable.

6. President Obama’s Executive Order Governs Federal Policy

On December 7, 2012, the President issued an Executive Order establishing the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.

Among other provisions, the Executive Order directed the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to chair the Task Force and, to the extent permitted by law, align relevant programs and authorities with a long-term rebuilding plan that supports the region’s economic vitality, enhance infrastructure, and ensure appropriate accountability.    HUD Order (2/12/13) 

7. HUD is the new lead agency on disaster recovery 

HUD is taking the federal lead, instead of FEMA.

Why don’t we know any of this? Could it be because NJ’s new coverage follows Governor Christie’s press releases?

Maybe we don’t know this in NJ because NY State Governor Cuomo was once Secretary of HUD?

As a former HUD Secretary, Cuomo obviously has a huge advantage in securing discretionary funds from the Obama Administration.

Here is HUD’s interpretation of the Obama Executive Order

First, and most importantly, it will coordinate with all stakeholders to deliver cohesive, rebuilding strategies— creating a comprehensive regional plan within six months. We will gather and share the best practices of recovering communities, creating a vision for long-term rebuilding by State and local stakeholders—a vision that will be supported by more thoughtful planning and a focus on resilience and sustainability.

Second, it will reduce regulatory burdens and cut red tape.

Third, it will manage the flow of federal recovery funds and make sure that the resources the federal government provides are aligned with local priorities.

Fourth, we will monitor the progress and strengthen accountability measures. We know that at a moment like this, because Americans are anxious about the recovery, they have little patience for waste. The structure of the task force and the ability to monitor funds allow us to deliver this kind of accountability.

Finally, more than a checkbook, it will allow us to offer technical assistance and tools—providing critical support as those on the ground realize their vision for redevelopment and revitalization.  We will develop and track clear metrics to monitor and communicate progress, capture best practices and set standards for long-term disaster recovery.

This task force is not and cannot be simply federal oversight or mandate.  Rather, it must provide leadership and connections that actively support local visions. And with the expertise of virtually the entire cabinet represented, we are prepared to make those visions of this recovery a reality.  (HUD Press release (1/2/13)

8. Climate Change, Seal Level Rise, and Extreme Weather Must Be Considered

We repeatedly have written about and criticized Gov. Christie for climate change denial on influencing Sandy or considering it in planning for rebuild.

That criticism is not just advocacy – it reflects the position of the federal government.

FEMA issued “Climate Change Adaptation Policy Statement” on Jan. 23, 2012.

That FEMA Policy states:

While the scope, severity, and pace of future climate change impacts are difficult to predict, it is clear that potential changes could afffect our Agency’s ability to fulfill its mission. The challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higer sea levels could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards faced by communities and the emergency management professionals that serve them. [...]

The need to address risks associated with future disaster-related events, including those that may be linked to climate change, is inherent to FEMA’s long-term vision of promoting physical and economic loss reduction and life saving measures. Working within existing statutes and authorities, FEMA will strive to be consistent in the Agency’s incorporation of climate change adaptation actions and activities in on-going plans, policies, and procedures.

The FEMA policy statement includes changes to FEMA Policy and Procedure that pledge to incorporate climate change adaptation in, among others, the following critical FEMA programs and functions, including:

  • FEMA will continue to study the impacts of climate change on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and incorporate climate change considerations in the NFIP reform effort
  • … FEMA will evaluate the potential impact climate change may have on existing risk data and the corresponding implications for Threat Hazard Identification Risk Assessment

Governor Christie continues to ignore all this at our peril.

9. The federal law that appropriates $50+ billion requies a Plan from New Jersey

Here is language in the HUD appropriation:

      “That as a condition of eligibility for receipt of such funds, a grantee shall submit a plan to the Secretary detailing the proposed use of all funds, including criteria for eligibility and how the use of such funds will address long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed area”

Why do we know virtually nothing about this?

Where is the Christie Plan?

Why is the Christie Plan not subject to Legislative oversight and public hearings?

NJ law requires a public hearing for things like converting a gas station to a coffee shop, building a deck on a home, or connections to a sewer line – are you telling me we get nothing – nothing – no public input on multi-billion dollar plans for the entire shore region?

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