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Christie Killed Corzine Shore Protection Initiatives

Christie Defunded, Dismantled, or Ignored Programs That Would Have Greatly Reduced Sandy Damage and Turmoil

Anyone remember this? “New Jersey Catastrophe Preparedness and Protection Act

The current approach to dealing with catastrophes is an after-the-fact response model that is inadequate to protect New Jersey residents from catastrophic loss. New Jersey consumers need a public-private partnership which improves the means to provide financial assistance to families that are victims of catastrophes, enhances prevention and mitigation measures, improves recovery and rebuilding processes and educates homeowners on issues surrounding catastrophe management. […]

The State of New Jersey is commonly viewed as one of the states in the region that is exposed to catastrophic events. Given the scope and magnitude of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and given that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and because of the size of New Jersey, it is likely that a Category 3 or better storm could devastate the State.  Legislative findings, A3236 (2006)

Or this:

  • “Proposal for a High Level Summit to Address Fiscal Impacts of Global Climate Change And Sea Level Rise in New Jersey” (memorandum to Governor Corzine from the Commissioners of DEP and Department of Banking and Insurance – April 12, 2006)
  • Financial Risks and Opportunities of Climate Changes” (memorandum from DEP Commissioner Jackson to Banking and Insurance Commissioner Goldman – April 3, 2006)
  • Summit: Confronting Global Climate Change in New Jersey” (invitation letter from Governor Corzine – August 3, 2006. Agenda, goals, and invitees)
  • Section 309 Coastal Assessment – Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), February 2006. excerpt of Coastal Hazards section; 

Or all this?

I thought for sure that the saturation coverage of the 1 year anniversary of Sandy – much of it surprisingly critical of the Christie Administration’s performance after a year of cheerleading – would include mention of the Governor’s climate change record, especially as it applied to coastal planning and storm preparedness (including ignoring warnings of “imminent impacts”).

Thus far, the only media coverage that has even attempted to connect the dots between planning, preparedness, and Sandy damage has focused on just two issues: NJ Transit fiasco and the AshBitt scandal. Both were directly the result of a lack of planning and preparation. (WNYC opened that door early on).

I have repeatedly argued that NJ Transit and AshBritt are the tip of  a huge iceberg and urged legislators to conduct oversight and the press to investigate.

But, the coverage did not go there – and neither did the Legislative oversight hearings – despite the promise by Senator Gordon. Twice, Gordon promised to go there:  1) in his opening remarks during the AshBritt hearings and 2) during his tough questioning of DEP Commissioner at the Senate Budget Committee’s December 2012 hearing.

I was optimistic that these issues would be scrutinized, because Senator Gordon has personal background and professional experience in hazard planning,  and because – prior to Sandy – he sponsored a bill (with Senator Buono, see S2208) that would mandate that DEP update state flood hazard maps, which Gordon correctly noted  are decades old and date to the Carter Administration (an embarrassing fact that DEP acknowledged).

But none of that ever happened – it astounds me that both Gordon and Buono failed to follow through and make this an issue. (Was Gordon cowed by Christie preemptive attack?)

So, today I repost a piece on exactly how the Christie Administration abandoned Corzine Administration initiatives to respond to climate change risk, conduct adaptation planning and better prepare for extreme weather , sea level rise, and coastal storms.

The Corzine initiatives included a State Catastrophic Storm Fund to provide compensation to those harmed by storms like Sandy.

A State level program would have helped in the Sandy recovery, because, as Senator Bob Smith has noted, reliance on federal funding makes NJ dependent on the political whims of Congress and the oversight of federal agencies (AP Press, 10/22/13):

“As long as we’re living by the federal rules and federal rules only, the piper is calling the tune, and the tune is not necessarily good for New Jersey,” Smith said.

Smith then outlined a new NJ state legislative initiative: (AP Press 10/27/13)

Smith said more than a half-dozen bills will emerge from the hearings, including proposals to create a $250 million catastrophic relief program through which the state could advance people money needed to make repairs, which would then be reimbursed with federal aid; to establish qualifications for home-elevation contractors; and to have a coastal commission put together a shorewide master plan. 

Sounds like a good start – but we could have been there by now if Christie didn’t abandon the effort that the Corzine  administration began.

So today we repost this piece from from November 1, 2012 – and remember, elections have consequences:

Catastrophic Failures and Catastrophic Fools

November 1st, 2012 

[Update below] –

No doubt, Sandy was a Catastrophic storm.

No doubt, NJ still suffers from “an after-the-fact response model”.

No doubt that all this will be ignored by the press coverage.

But, as the stormwaters recede and power is restored, before we move on to the next new thing, let’s not lose sight of the need to reflect and understand important lessons.

It is crucial that we take this moment to reflect NOW, before new expectations are formed and we mindlessly begin repeating the same mistakes that brought us to this crisis.

Some of the most important are:

1) Sandy as a Final Wake up Call – connecting the dots of this storm to global warming induced climate change- (see:  “Frankenstorm” Another Example of Global Warming Extreme Weather

Over the last year, the rest of the country has suffered record wildfires, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes – now its the East Coast’s turn to experience extreme weather directly.

2) Sandy as an opportunity to re-imagine a new Jersey Shore and begin the painful process of “strategic retreat” and adaptation (see:  A Dirge To McHarg and Mumford

3) Sandy as illustrating the need for planning and public policy leadership

I’ve written briefly about the first two lessons to be learned from “Hurricane” (or “Superstorm”) Sandy, so today I will touch briefly on the planning and public policy issues.

It is no secret that many in leadership positions in Corporate and Republican circles deny the science of global warming, are “market fundamentalists”, and view government as the problem, not the solution.

Those Catastrophic Fools have a lock on government and have used their power to block all forms of government intervention – Republicans even sought to slash FEMA funding, hand it off to the States, and eliminate and privatize FEMA.

But, we read today that the Star Ledger is reporting that the cost of Sandy will exceed $30 billion:

The damage from Hurricane Sandy will likely exceed that from Tropical Storm Irene, but the cost to businesses could be far worse.

Analysts estimate property damage along the Eastern Seaboard could be as much as $20 billion, but say business losses could reach as high as $30 billion.

I found it tragically ironic that the NJ Business and Industry Association was quoted in the story, complaining about the costs to business (a prelude to subsidies?):

“The impact was very broad,” said Christopher Biddle, vice president of the N.J. Business & Industry Association. “It hit every business across the state.”

He said it was too early to put a dollar sign on the damage, but expected the state’s economic recovery would be slowed.

“This has been a difficult and weak economy,” he said, “so it’s been tough to begin with. Now, with Sandy, it’s an extremely tough time for any business that’s already struggling.”

It’s folks like NJ BIA that are blocking the kind of government policy interventions that could mitigate those economic hits to business!

Catastrophic Fools like NJBIA should suffer the fulll consequences of their foolishness andCatastrophic Failures!

So, while the press will certainly report the NJBIA whining and will write even more disgusting lapdog stories about Gov. Christie “rising to the crisis”, here’s something to chew on that you will not read in the paper:

Although the press has amnesia, we recall that not so long ago, during the Corzine Administration, government leaders actually took steps to not only mitigate global warming emissions, but to anticipate, plan for and finance catastrophic storm events (what we now refer to as “extreme weather”).

While Governor Christie prances around and demagogues the emergency response on YouTube and multiple press conferences – even using the storm as cover to weaken Flood Hazard regulations –  former Governor Corzine exercised leadership and actually proposed solutions, not empty rhetoric and slogans.

[Note: This is not a partisan issue. We criticized the Corzine initiatives at the time as woefully inadequate – but, in contrast to Christie, at least Corzine was proposing solutions.]

For example, in an April 12, 2006 memo, Corzine DEP Commissioner Jackson and Banking and Insurance Commissioner Goldman warned Governor Corzine that:

“Global climate change is predicted to have a pronounced impact on New Jersey. Changes are already occurring. Rising ambient temperatures are expected to effect the health of our citizens. …Sea level rise is expected to accelerate and threaten New Jersey’s coastline. Higher sea levels will increase the severity of storm-related flooding is coastal and bay areas. In addition to significant property losses, sea level rise will adversely affect coastal ecosystems and may threaten fresh water supplies through salt water intrusion. With climate change, storm frequency and intensity is predicted to increase.”…

These are but a few of the results we can anticipate from climate change and we can also expect the changes to have serious consequences for New Jersey’s economy. In March, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners voted unanimously to establish as task force on climate change to examine the issues bearing on the insurance industry’s long term solvency. Late last year, New York State’s largest provider of homeowners insurance, Allstate, announced that it would no longer sell new homeowners insurance in NY City, Long Island and Westchester County. According to a company spokesperson, Allstate is studying whether to stop writing new policies in other parts of the country, particularly for properties in vulnerable shorefront areas.

In response, to address those serious threats, Corzine held a “Climate Change Summit”.

The Summit was called: “Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey”. It  was held on September 25, 2006. The Governor directed Summit participants to focus on, among other things:

  • What policy changes should the State make in response to the focus issues of floods and storms (including sea level rise)?
  • Are there current State policies and practices regarding the regulation of …land use and construction that serve as disincentives to sound practices in light of climate change?
  • What …[policies] could we modify to encourage consideration of floods and storms in development and land use practices?

As part of that effort, Assemblyman Panter (since un-elected), proposed legislation, A3236, called: “New Jersey Consumer Catastrophe Preparedness and Protection Act“,.

We testified and suggested amendments to strengthen that bill – which found:

2.  The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.  The exposure in New Jersey to major catastrophes is greater than commonly understood, particularly catastrophes involving hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

     b. All New Jersey residents, regardless of location, are susceptible to the devastating and unpredictable consequences of catastrophes, thereby necessitating a Statewide preparedness and proactive program of catastrophe management. 

     c.  There is a compelling State interest in maintaining a viable and orderly private sector market for property insurance in this State. To the extent that the private sector is unable to maintain a viable and orderly market for property insurance in this State, encouraging and assisting such a viable and orderly market are valid and necessary exercises of the police power.

     d.  The failure of the State to properly prepare for a potential catastrophe could result in a devastating impact on New Jersey families, as well as the entire State’s economy.

     e.  The current approach to dealing with catastrophes is an after-the-fact response model that is inadequate to protect New Jersey residents from catastrophic loss. New Jersey consumers need a public-private partnership which improves the means to provide financial assistance to families that are victims of catastrophes, enhances prevention and mitigation measures, improves recovery and rebuilding processes and educates homeowners on issues surrounding catastrophe management.

     f.  The result of unprecedented levels of insured losses from natural catastrophes in recent years, as evidenced by Hurricane Andrew, the 2004 four-storm hurricane season in Florida, tsunamis in Asia, the Northridge Earthquake in California, Hurricane Wilma in Florida and the most recent devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have resulted in numerous insurers determining that in order to protect their solvency, it is necessary for them to reduce their exposure to catastrophic losses. The instability of the global reinsurance market which leads to increased reinsurance costs, also caused in part by these events, has also increased the pressure on insurers to reduce their exposure to catastrophic loss.  This pressure will result in an increase in reinsurance costs and could force an increase in homeowners insurance premiums.

     g.    The State of New Jersey is commonly viewed as one of the states in the region that is exposed to catastrophic events. Given the scope and magnitude of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and given that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and because of the size of New Jersey, it is likely that a Category 3 or better storm could devastate the State.

So here we are –

Will will continue along the same failed path?

[Update: 11/5/12 – To their credit, DEP’s Office of Coastal Zone Management has done somegood work on vulnerability assessment and adaptation, but I don’t think it has been implemented, or funded, and relies on voluntary local initiative and planning. There are no funds, no state support, and no state regulatory sticks that I am aware of.

This is another example of Christie delegating DEP responsibilities to the local level and dodging DEP regulation.

Also, that Office previously had greater resources, staffing, and influence because it used to report directly to the Commissioner. But it was dismantled and transferred when Martin abolished the Office of Policy and Planning and buried Global Warming initiatives in air quality.

That bureaucratic move by Marin is another subtle but significant way to dismantle environmental initiatives without fingerprints or accountability for having done so.

In contrast, illustrating his priorities, DEP Commissioner Martin created several new deregulatory and economic programs in the Commissioner’s Office.

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