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Why Are Coastal Advocates Doing Nothing To Support The Coastal Commission Bill?

No Buzz on Coastal Commission, as Rebuild Madness Grows and Summer Beach Season Starts

It’s no secret that I have been a long time (pre-Sandy) advocate for coastal land use planning and a Coastal Commission with regulatory powers, so it also should be no surprise that I write this today in frustration and disappointment, bordering on contempt.

Today marks one month since Assemblyman Barnes’ proposed legislation (A3920) to create a Coastal Commission was approved by the Assembly Environment Committee.

The case for a coastal commission has only grown since.

I closed my May 14 post on the release from Committee with this observation:

The bill drew praise and strong support from virtually all of NJ’s environmental groups, including the typically more moderate coastal and conservation groups that have been close to Governor Christie, including Clean Ocean Action, American Littoral Society, and NJ Audubon Society. Tim Dillingham of ALS gave particularly articulate and compelling testimony.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if these groups mobilize their members in a serious effort to back the bill, which is a heavy lift and will require a major battle to pass (and overcome a likely veto by Governor Christie, if Democrats can get on the same page before the election).

Summertime makes for excellent environmental campaigns – as thousands flock to the shore, there are opportunities for petitions, fundraising, press events, and organizing – and with all the Sandy free media focus on the shore, it would seem like an ideal time to mount a major public campaign in support of a coastal commission.

Are coastal advocates capitalizing on this huge opportunity and making a serious effort in support of the Barnes bill?

The available evidence is – at best – deeply disappointing.

It’s almost as if the bill doesn’t exist and is being given the silent treatment or even undermined in some quarters.

The silence is deafening (with the exception of a Sierra Club press release and an Op-Ed by Barry Chalofsky, consultant and former DEP storm water program manager).

I have not seen any Op-Ed’s, Letters to the editor, public events, “Action ALerts”, newsletters, fact sheets, or any other public statements in support of the Barnes bill by the primary coastal advocacy groups active along the shore, such as Clean Ocean Action, American Littoral Society, NJ Surfrider, Save Barnegat Bay, or NJ Audubon Society.

There is nothing on COA website, COA “Issues and Campaigns“,  or COA’s  blog, despite the fact that COA testified in support of the bill.

A word search of the COA website did find “Barnes”, but not the Assemblyman or his bill, but “Barnes and Noble”.

A similar story emerged from the American Littoral Society website with respect to a lack of support for the Barnes bill.

ALS has a website page “After Sandy” and organizational focus  on damage assessment and restoration, but nothing on a Coastal Commission. Despite this focus, ALS apparently does not view the Barnes bill or a Coastal Commission as a “hot issue” (and there were no hits for a word search of “Barnes”).

Curiously, ALS is looking to hire a “policy advocate” to work on coastal resiliency and doing “grassroots restoration” work, right up the alley of a Coastal Commission.

Ditto NJ Audubon (a group with a priority with focus on shore birds) and land preservation and stewardship), where all we could find on a coastal commission was a March 10, 2000 report by Bill Neil and Save Barnegat Bay, where all I could find was a blank page on“Hurricane Sandy Relief”.

So, it looks like no one is working on the issue or the bill.

And that’s a cowardly, irresponsible and shortsighted damn shame – bordering on corrupt given state funding to and political support for the Governor by some shore groups.

But I could be wrong –

The enviro’s secretly could be planning their fast and furious “D-Day” campaign, to blitz the shore this summer in support of the Barnes bill with a public demand to get it on the Gov.’s desk before the fall election.

So someone, please do something to prove me wrong.


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  1. Bill Neil
    June 14th, 2013 at 16:16 | #1

    Bill and his readers:

    I’ve always had a sense of the tensions within environmental organizations, and the “movement” ( a term I use with no small amount of irony and maybe even sarcasm) between the broad poles of acting like “charities” and acting like “policy” organizations.

    It seems to me that the “charity” tendencies are winning out, pushed in that direction by the difficult economic times, the greater ideological awareness and organization of business itself, and the force field the American Right has exerted on the Democratic party and its “centrism.”

    The more I reflect back upon my career in NJ, the less I can separate economics and environment: everything I worked on from cranberry permits to land-use legislation led to economics and the push backs of business and their allies. Maybe a word of caution to Gar Alperowitz and his book “What Then Must We Do” to remember Ocean Spray was a co-operative which drains the term of meaning of what Gar hopes for: they behaved just like any other profit-maximizing entity in full fledge corporate profit mode: spent like crazy in the lobbying game in the mid to late 1990’s, contributed way over their size to elected officials, and worked to weaken wetland regs. at the state and federal level.

    Any thoughts on this, Michele?

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