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Let’s Nip Any Christie – Cuomo Spin In the Bud

Will Media Fall for Another Sham Christie – Cuomo Comparison on Environment?

[Update #3 below]

[Update #2: oops, looks like I was too late: Jim O’Neill’s story ran in the Sunday Bergen Record.

Meanwhile, existing regulatory and planning tools that can reduce flooding in NJ are being ignored or rolled back by Gov. Christie.

And unlike the symbolic gestures and stunts – none of that is not reported. Pathetic.-Don’t reporters ever get tired of being played? end update]

The Star Ledger just posted a blurb from a NY press report regarding NY Gov. Cuomo’s veto of a bill to establish a Hackensack – Bergen flood Commission, see: Cuomo vetoes bill to fix Hackensack River flooding in N.J. and N.Y.

The Ledger blurb closes with this sentence, which implicitly favorably compares Gov. Christie with Cuomo:

Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar measure in January 2012.

That smells very much like another highly misleading Christie-Cuomo comparison on the environment,  that portrays Christie in a favorable light and makes him look good in comparison to Cuomo.

So, to avoid another disaster like that, I thought I’d provide a quick note on context in order to nip that gestating spin in the bud.

First of all, the NY bill Cuomo vetoed was not significant. According to the NY news report, Cuomo vetoed it because it was not funded:

“This bill provides no funding to support the Commission’s operations, which the Division of the Budget estimates would be approximately $600,000 annually shared between New York and New Jersey,” Cuomo wrote in his veto statement. “Given the fiscal impact of this bill, it would be better dealt with in the more comprehensive and vigorous review of the budgetary process.”

Not only was the NY bill Cuomo vetoed not funded, but the Commission it would have created had no formal power and the flood management program it would have created was toothless, voluntary, and local.

There were no local land use controls or state regulatory controls triggered by the bill.

So, a bill with no funding, no regulations, and no local land use controls is not a serious attempt to control flooding.

The NY bill would have “fixed” nothing.

I need to do some research to find what Gov. Christie was said to have signed in 2012, I must have missed it. But I suspect it was the same toothless stunt that NY passed.

[Update #1: I found it: P.L. 2011, c. 177  the “Rockland-Bergen Watershed Flood Prevention and Protection Act.”  It was sponsored by that well known environmental champion, Senator Cardinale (that’s snark, folks, Cardinale is a notorious anti-environmental right winger).

As suspected, like the NY bill, the NJ versions toothless, unfunded, no planning or regulatory linkages, and ignored existing state and local planning and regulatory tools that do have teeth. Another symbolic gesture.

No wonder I was not aware of it – it was not controversial because it was meaningless.  – end update]

Meanwhile, on the planning and regulatory side of the NJ side of the border,  the NJ river/stream portions of the watershed were designated by NJ DEP as “Category One” waters (C1) –

[Take a look at the Christie DEP scientists report – it finds that the McGreevey DEP C1 program is scientifically justified and recommends additional C1 designations. Those DEP recommendations have been ignored.]

Those waters get 300 foot wide protected vegetated buffers where no new development can occur. (Full disclosure: I was involved in the C1 designation while at DEP during the McGreevey Administration).

Development limitations and buffers protect water quality and can reduce flooding (see: The Power of a Category One Designation).

The Christie DEP has dismantled the McGreevey DEP C1 program and not designated ANY new C1 waters, despite candidate Christie’s promise to do so in 2009 campaign.

So, note to reporters: before you create the misleading impression that Gov. Christie is good on the environment, tell the whole story.

[Update #3 – a reporter just asked for examples of how existing DEP planning and regulatory tools are being ignored or rolled back – here is my off the cuff response:

1. Check DEP website – DEP has adopted NO NEW C1’s for 4 years now, despite a report by DEP scientists recommending that they do so;

2. DEP revised the “water quality management planning rules” (WQMP) to add 40,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in sewer service areas – some of these were in flood prone basins;

3. Bergen County’s Senator Robert Gordon sponsored a bill – prior to Sandy – to require that DEP update inland river flood maps – part of DEP’s Flood Hazard Area Control Rules (aka “stream encroachment”). (see this for links to and analysis of Gordon’s bill, S2208).

Those maps are ancient, and date to the Carter Administration. There have been 3 legislative hearings on the bill, none of them were covered by media. DEP Commissioner Martin testified to OPPOSE the bill allegedly due to cost. DEP greatly inflated those costs.

4. DEP has done little or nothing with the existing watershed management program, Former Director Larry Bair was banished to Siberia by Martin. He was replaced by a woman with no water resource experience or training – Jill Lipoti, who ran DEP Radiation Protection programs for 20 years and has a PhD in nuclear science, and now runs DEP Water resource programs.

5. Christie has abandoned the State Plan, which would have guided local and county planning efforts to limit development in environmentally sensitive lands, which include flood plains and sensitive headwaters;

6. Gov. Christie and DEP have ignored numerous scientific warnings that climate change will bring more frequent and intense storms that worse flooding.

Those warnings require that current regulations (technical things like the methods for calculating and projecting rainfall and storm water volumes) be strengthened.

7. There were budget cuts as well.

8. Rules have been delayed and blocked by Executive Order #2. and #4.

A whole bunch of stuff, if you’d look!  – end update #3]

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