Archive for April, 2013

Living In The Past

April 10th, 2013 1 comment

Republicans Legislators Challenge Republican Governor’s Budget

Letter to Gov. Demands Restoration of Environmental Cuts

“Among all the responsibilities of government, there are few of greater importance, or of more concern to the public than the protection of New Jersey’s environment and the quality of public health.”

Oh, we won’t give in,
We’ll keep living in the past. ~~~ Jethro Tull (1969 – YouTube listen)

[Update: 4/15/13 – The Bergen Record kicks off the Earth Day/Week spinfest with an echo of my theme below about Republicans from the past:  Former Governor Kean calls on Christie to protect, add open spaces

A few quick points on that story:

1) Kean called for Christie to do more on climate change as well as open space. The headline should reflect that. So, here is a perfect example of the political and media risks of Keep it Green Coalition  – in this case, they chose to emphasize open space over climate and the media went along.

2) There is s strong irony that was ignored. Kean used executive power to impose a moratorium on development to pressure the Legislature to pass the Wetlands Act. He was following the lead of Gov. Byrne, who did the same thing to secure the Pinelands Act.

In contrast, Gov. Christie did the opposite: he used Executive Orders to ROLL BACK environmental protections. Christie is the first Gov. in 40 years with NO ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY.

3) The story only mentions the sales tax option as the financing mechanisms – that is the worst of 3 options on the table.  – end update]

As the Christie DEP’s FY’14 budget is up for legislative consideration in the Senate on Monday, I’m reminded that – back in the day – there were Republicans who supported environmental protection, and they backed that support up with passage of laws and sufficient funds to DEP to enforce them.

Back in the day, the Governor was not the Bully In Chief or perceived as King.

Legislators, at times, would put the public interest before crude partisan politics.

Legislators did not surrender the reins of policy or the power of the purse to an arrogant and over-reaching Executive Power.

Really – here’s proof! Look at all those Republican Senators challenging Republican Governor Whitman’s DEP budget (only 1 Senator remains today, and he wouldn’t flush the toilet without asking for Christie’s permission).

Now, wouldn’t you think today’s Senate Democrats could do at least as much as their Republican predecessors? (horrendous policy record aside, if only for the fact that Christie stole over $800 million in Clean Energy Fund money)

Trenton, NJ, May 16, 1996.

State of New Jersey
State House CN-001
Trenton, NJ 08625-0001.


Among all the responsibilities of government, there are few of greater importance, or of more concern to the public than the protection of New Jersey’s environment and the quality of public health. We know that protecting these important concerns, and carrying out these responsibilities through appropriate State actions and support is a priority you share with the Legislature and the general public. It is in recognition of that shared commitment to protecting New Jersey’s environment and public health that we write to you today.

We are greatly concerned that your proposed budget for fiscal year 1997 does not adequately provide the necessary resources to State government to meet the environmental challenges facing the State. This is especially true in the proposed funding for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The proposed budget would require dramatic reductions in scientific, technical and human resources critical to the mission of the Department. In a State facing the environmental issues New Jersey does, we need to respond aggressively to the challenges of insuring that our air is safe to breath, the water safe to drink or the empty lot next door safe to play in. It is highly questionable as to whether the Department will maintain the requisite expertise and resources under the fiscal year 1997 budget proposal to answer these questions and respond in a way protective of public health and the environment.

We are also concerned that the proposed reduction in resources will not fulfill the new approaches to environmental protection. The successful implementation of the initiatives under discussion will require additional resources above and beyond those currently available to the DEP. Many of the “reengineering” initiatives being undertaken by the Department will be fundamentally handicapped by the proposed reductions in resources contained in the current budget proposal.

Due to these concerns we feel that it is important that you be aware we may not be able to support this budget proposal, should it come before the Senate in its current form The historical erosion of staffing at the Department experienced over past budget cycles cannot be continued because the environmental goals we have outlined above will not be attainable.

We feel strongly that the proposed layoffs of DEP personnel will negatively impact the Department’s ability to effectively safeguard the environment and protect public health. Therefore, we cannot support a final DEP budget which contains employee layoffs.

We are, of course, committed to working with you to restore the resources we feel are necessary to carry out the critical functions of the Department of Environmental Protection.

We feel that it is very possible to identity appropriate resources, sources of funding and approaches to achieve this, and we ask for the opportunity to explore these with you and your staff.

Respectfully yours,

Senate Majority Leader.




President Pro Tempore.



Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Drowning Your Future In The Bath Tub

April 10th, 2013 2 comments
  • “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Grover Norquist, Republican Guru (5/25/01)
  • “This governor [Christie] has said no new taxes and no unfunded mandates” – DEP, 4/9/13

For over a decade, the Republican Party has been driven by Grover Norquist’s desire to shrink government, and zealously have pursued a slash and burn agenda of tax cuts, deregulation, downsizing, and privatization to achieve that objective.

But now, not satisfied with simply drowning government in the bathtub, they are coming after the infrastructures that literally make your life – and your family’s future – possible.

Schools, libraries, roads, trains, buses, water, sewer, parks, hospitals, energy systems – the infrastructure that makes you life possible – are being run into the ground. Just at DEP:

New Jersey needs to spend $45 billion over the next two decades to repair its drinking water infrastructure and sewage treatment plants, according to Michele Siekerka, an assistant commissioner for the DEP in water resource management. That means investing $8 billion in its drinking water infrastructure and another $37 billion in wastewater treatment.

My goodness, in Hillsborough (Somerset County), one of the wealthiest towns in the State, the Star Ledger reports today that they are fighting over library fee revenues! How low can it go?

The necessary funding to maintain and upgrade them is being blocked by political ideology.

We are engaged in a race to the bottom.

Since the day NJ Governor Chris Christie was sworn into Office, we’ve been writing about the implications of his radical and ideological views of government and the public policies that flow from them (all of which were fleshed out in his DEP Transition Report).

In the first hour of his first day in Office, the Governor’s first official act was to issue a series of sweeping Executive Orders (#1 – 4) expressing and operationalizing those radical views.

Those radical policies have consequences – examples:

  • because DEP was blocked under Executive Order #4 from imposing “unfunded mandates”, highly vulnerable shore towns and water and sewer infrastructure were left unprepared for the power outages and flooding we experienced under Sandy;
  • as a result of the “cost benefit” requirements of Executive Order #2, we are killing the renewable energy industry;
  • “No new taxes” means that the Transportation Trust and the Green Acres Garden State Preservation Trust can not be renewed

Now, almost 4 years later, we are finally seeing the effects and the media is beginning to wake up and connect the dots between government policy and on the ground conditions.

In many ways, Superstorm Sandy  has forced that awakening, but more mundane matters, like the recent multiple water main breaks across the state – in Hoboken, six in one week! – certainly reinforce the message.

When these critical infrastructure investments are not made, we kill jobs; forego economic development opportunities; allow erosion of public health, ecological integrity and quality of life; and put your family’s future further at risk.

Is this the future you want?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The Most Important Environmental Law That (The NY Times) Never Heard Of – Until Yesterday

April 9th, 2013 No comments

Rebuilding Our Shores, Increasing the Risks”

Why Did Media, Coastal Advocates, and Policymakers Ignore Key Law and Allow Rebuild Madness Momentum to Build and Prevail?

Posted 11/14/12 - (source: US Fish and Wildlife Service)


The NY Times ran a great story yesterday, Rebuilding the Shores, Increasing the Risks with this lede:

This might be a good time to take a look at the most important environmental law that nobody has ever heard of.

The real estate industry fought that law bitterly in Congress, but lost, and it landed on Ronald Reagan’s desk in 1982. The president not only signed it, but did so with a rhetorical flourish, calling it a “triumph for natural resource conservation and federal fiscal responsibility.”

The law — the Coastal Barrier Resources Act — was intended to protect much of the American coastline, and it did so in a clever way that drew votes from the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats.

It is worth bringing up today because we are once again in an era when our coasts are at risk and our national coffers are strained. The $75 billion in damages from Hurricane Sandy, coming only seven years after the $80 billion fromHurricane Katrina, told us this much: We need a plan.

We need a plan? What?

After a $60 BILLION federal bailout has been appropriated and programmed? After the Governors of NY and NJ have made irrevocable commitments to recklessly rebuild and submitted plans for federal approval?

[Just got the email – today the NJ State Planning Commission again canceled its regular monthly meeting,  “Due to the lack of agenda items at this time.“. Imagine that – no planning issues to consider!]

The NY Times story begs so many questions that demand answers:

  • why is this important and supremely relevant law so obscure?
  • why has it gotten zero attention in the Congressional debate in the $60 billion Sandy bailout?
  • why have even coastal advocacy and environmental groups not invoked it?
  • why does the NY Times cover the story months after Congress, President Obama, and the Governors of NY and NJ have made irrevocable commitments to a reckless rebuild strategy?

We assure the NY Times that we are aware of and have been advocating that the CBRA be part of the bailout and Sandy recovery strategy for over 5 months.

We advocated that PRIOR to the Congressional debate and BEFORE public expectations were formed and BEFORE political commitments were made and BEFORE strategies and plans were in place, when it could have made a difference on the outcome.

We urged our environmental colleagues to demand expansions of NJ’s CBRA designated lands. Crickets.

Guess they were too busy working on meaningless aspirational “principles”, pursuing a politically safe and ineffective inside “by invitation only” “Stakeholder” game with the Christie DEP and hiding under their desks, working on DEP press releases, hobnobbing with lawyers for the builders, providing political cover for the Governor or otherwise basking in $1 million co-optation and the political compromises that come from reliance on State funding and what passes for environmental lobbying in Trenton.

We wrote to the NJ press corps and editors, urging them to cover the CBRA aspects of the story. Crickets. They were too busy cheerleading Rebuilding for their dwindling advertisement clients (i.e. Builders, real estate) and stoking the Gov.’s Fleece and public support now reflected in political polls.

It was all intentionally ignored – and for the worst of reasons.

But, now that the Grey Lady – who sets the media agenda – has written the story and it’s too late anyway to have any impact on policy, it’s politically safe to come out. So, I assume that the NJ Press Corps – and the opportunistic media hounds in the NJ environmental community – have been granted permission to write the story.

I hate cliches, but it’s far too little and too late.

But why is that?

Why did all the players duck, let rebuild madness momentum build, and miss this huge reform opportunity?

Money, money, money, money. (listen to the O’Jays)

So, in case you missed them at the time, here are our Nov. 14, 2012 and Jan. 10, 2013 followup posts on CBRA:

Map of the Day – As Congress Contemplates a $50 Billion Federal Bailout of NY and NJ  (Nov. 14, 2012)

In the past, certain actions and programs of the Federal government had the effect of encouraging development of fragile, high-risk, and ecologically sensitive coastal barriers. The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982 and its amendments limit Federal expenditures and financial assistance which have the effect of encouraging development on designated coastal barriers. The result is a savings in Federal dollars, the protection of human lives, and conservation of natural resources. CBRA and its amendments do not prevent or regulate development, they only remove the Federal incentive for development on designated coastal barriers. Therefore, individuals who choose to live and invest in these hazard-prone areas bear the full cost of development and rebuilding instead of passing it on to American taxpayers. An economic study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2002 estimated that by 2010, CBRA will have saved American taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion by restricting Federal spending for roads, wastewater systems, potable water supply, and disaster relief.

And this – which the NY Times story essentially parrots:

Conservative Principles to Guide Christie’s Shore Rebuilding – Ronald Reagan’s Coastal Policy A Test For Gov. Christie (Jan. 10, 2013)

Governor Christie calls himself a conservative Republican.

He often emulates and harkens back to the words of President Reagan.

So, as a test of the Governor’s avowed conservative principles, I thought I’d lay out a federal legislative initiative championed by President Reagan that reflects conservative principles that could guide and be part of the Sandy Rebuild effort.

Conservative principles are relevant, because it sure looks like the Democratically controlled NJ Legislature is taking a pass and allowing the Governor and his rebuild Czar to control the game.

Conservative principles also could influence Congress, and suggest ways to impose strings and apply existing federal programs to the Sandy rebuild.

What I am suggesting is that conditions in the federal bailout package could require additional designations of NJ barrier islands and lands under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (see map for currently designated NJ lands)

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

NRA “Freedom Schools” – A Blueprint

April 8th, 2013 No comments

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Speaking of Denial …. An Open Challenge to the Star Ledger Editorial Board

April 3rd, 2013 2 comments

Dismissal and Dismantling Are Worse Than Denial

[Update: I forgot to mention that Gov. Christie brought political pressure on FEMA to relax the maps that the Star Ledger correctly criticized as flawed because they fail to include sea level rise/climate change – see: Gov. Christie is Dead Wrong on FEMA Maps – This fact just adds to the argument that the Ledger’s sole focus on criticizing FEMA is, at best, misplaced.]

For Sunday’s edition, the Star Ledger ran a spot on editorial, under this unusually bold headline:

FEMA’s climate change denial


To the mountain of difficulties facing New Jersey families after Hurricane Sandy, add one more: the federal government’s unwillingness to help them predict the impact of climate change over the next several decades.

The flood maps drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency do not consider the rising sea levels or increasing frequency of big storms that scientists predict.

“Right now, we don’t do that,” says Dave Miller, who runs FEMA’s flood insurance program. “Do the new maps reflect that? No.”

This was nothing new to us, as we broke that story and have been writing furiously about it – literally  – for months now (see: NEW JERSEY YET TO COME TO GRIPS WITH POST-SANDY FLOOD RISKS – Coastal Maps Do Not Account for Climate Change Effects; Inland Maps Decades Old).

And we’ve warned that, just like FEMA, DEP’s flood maps are outdated and also do NOT reflect climate change risks.

We also put that issue formally on the regulatory agenda when DEP adopted the FEMA draft Advisory maps (see: DEP Dodges Role of Climate Change In Sandy and Sea Level Rise).

The deeply unpopular and far away FEMA makes an easy fat target for Star Ledger editors –

But if the Ledger is looking into climate impact deniers, what about a closer and bigger target, right here in our backyard, like NJ Gov. Christie?

At least FEMA has a “Climate Change Adaptation Policy“, openly acknowledges the problem, and is taking steps to address it.

In contrast, Gov. Christie not only has squat on the policy front, he has aggressively DISMISSED climate change as a concern with respect to Sandy preparation and response (for all the ugly details, see:  Why Is It So Hard For NJ Media to Call Out Gov. Christie on Climate Change?)

Here are the Gov.’s own words:

As Sandy gathered force and then slammed into his state, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie batted off question’s about 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. ~~~ (WNYC 12/7/12)

And this, two months later, from the Bergen Record:

“I have no idea. I’m not a climatologist and in the last hundred days I have to tell you the truth, I’ve been focused on a lot of things, the cause of this is not one of them that I’ve focused on,” Christie said in response to a question about the role climate change could have played in fueling the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. “Now, maybe in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with trying to rebuild the state and put people back in their homes, I will have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the cause of this storm. …If you asked of these people in Union Beach, I don’t think they give a damn.” NJ Gov. Chris Christie, Feb. 5. 2013

More broadly on the climate change front, the Gov. has also DISMANTLED and DIVERTED or DEFUNDED – systematically – NJ’s policy, programs, institutions, science, and funding to combat and adapt to climate range.

[Note: Gov. Christie did all this dismantling PRIOR to Sandy. This boxed him because it created policy vulnerabilities that made it impossible for him to acknowledge a climate change role in Sandy or to include climate change in his Sandy response. To do so would have shed light on this terrible record and been an admission of error by the Gov. – and we all know that Christie doesn’t do that!.]

The Gov. has engaged in an across the board assault on the State’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption, promote energy efficeincy, develop renewable power, and plan for adaptation to climate change impacts (and the diversion of $over $800 million in Clean Energy Funds to close budget deficits is also a jobs killer).

Gov. Christie rejects both regulatory mandates and market based tools:

“I don’t believe in a carbon tax. …. I’m not going to put more regulations on corporations” Gov. Christie  ~~~  ****Star Ledger 3/26/13

In an extraordinary move, the Gov. has even taken steps to whitewash the science and DEP findings, in a way that is reminiscent of how the Bush White House re-wrote EPA scientific findings and Reports on climate change.

Specifically, under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, the NJ DEP is required to submit a report every two years (known as the “309 Coastal Assessment”). A Key section of that Report addresses coastal hazards, including cliamte change, sea level rise, and over-development.

But, in a stunningly irresponsible move (that has has gotten ZERO press coverage), just prior to Irene and Sandy, in 2010, Gov. Christie’s DEP downgraded coastal hazard priority from HIGH” to “Medium”.

Worse, take a look at these findings from prior DEP Reports that have been DELETED from the Christie DEP’s 309 Report:

Many parts of New Jersey’s densely populated coastal area are highly susceptible to the effects of the following coastal hazards: flooding, storm surge, episodic erosion, chronic erosion, sea level rise, and extra-tropical storms. Reconstruction of residential development and the conversion of single family dwellings into multi-unit dwellings continues in hazardous areas… the value of property at risk is increasing significantly. With anticipated accelerating sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity, vulnerability to the risks of coastal hazards will not abate; it will only become more costly.

All of the impediments to meeting this 309 programmatic objective that appeared in the last New Jersey Coastal Zone Section 309 Assessment and Strategy remain. These include lobbying efforts of special interest groups, legal challenges to DEP permit decisions, provision of flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, and public perception that large-scale beach nourishment projects eliminate vulnerability to coastal hazards.

Titus demonstrates (link) that in certain instances, structural engineering solutions will not be practical or economically feasible. In these cases future public and private development and redevelopment must be directed away from the hazardous areas. While some derogatorily refer to this option as “retreat,” from the perspective of sound planning based on the best available science, the concept actually involves “strategic adjustment.” Prudent planning requires that we expand upon the existing studies of the societal, economic, and environmental costs of possible mitigative actions while the greatest number of alternatives exist.

The state’s coastal area continues to experience substantial seasonal and residential population increases. Conversion of formerly seasonal homes to year-round residences continues unabated. In many instances, formerly modest houses are replaced with significantly more expensive homes while property values continue to escalate.

At the same time, risks associated with coastal hazards continue to increase. Factors such as escalating sea level rise and cyclical and possibly long-term increases in storm frequency and intensity threaten both the natural environment and built environment of New Jersey’s coast. Consequently, the ranking of the Coastal Hazards Section 309 enhancement area remains a high priority with the NJCMP.

The Gov. has not only whitewashed these prior DEP findings.  In some cases – e.g. beach engineering (“large scale beach nourishment projects”) and “strategic adjustment” – he actually has reversed these prior findings and taken a contradictory position by touting engineering and promoting “Rebuild Now!”.

So, here’s an open challenge to the Star Ledger editorial board: tell the truth about Gov. Christie’s record on 1) climate change, 2) Sandy preparation and 3) Sandy recovery!

Hold the Governor accountable to his dismissal and dismantling and scientific fraud, which are actually far worse than denial.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: