Archive for February, 2014

Sandy Victims Blast Gov. Christie at Monmouth Public Hearing on $1.4 Billion Funding Plan

February 22nd, 2014 No comments
It’s Not Just Mismanagement  – Recovery Policy & Planning Flaws Still Ignored 

Signs were posted banning signs! No signs for you! (2/21/14)

Where’s the Governor? Why is he in Washington DC instead of  here listening to our problems?

Have you guys ever heard of the First Amendment? Take down those signs!

I wish the Governor were here so I could tell him exactly how I feel!

Dozens of people spoke passionately last night in Monmouth County at the final public hearing on Gov. Christie’s $1.4 billion second round HUD CDBG funding plan.

Virtually all blasted the Governor and his administration for gross mismanagement of the $1.8 billion first round in funding – many of the speakers were still homeless, living in trailers, or on the second floor of severely damaged homes.

I)  Victims Tell Their Stories – Victimized Again By Christie Administration Mismanagement

disabled woman testifies about her situation and denial of Sandy aid

Women spoke of living with children in homes with the first floor gutted, no insulation in freezing winter weather, and mold and other health hazards present.

In perhaps the most outrageous story I’ve heard so far, a disabled woman, calling herself a “jersey girl” who will not stop fighting, was denied funds (wait listed), while wealthy neighbors had received tens of thousands of HUD and FEMA dollars. So the federal aid is not only being delayed, but is not targeted to those most in need.

Not one of the Christie Cabinet members jumped up to respond to and help this woman, like they did to several others.

Again, it was shocking to hear the stories of victims, all the more disgraceful because 16 months have passed and 75% of first round $1.8 billion in federal aid has not be distributed to the people most in need.

I’ve been listening to these stories for over a year at 6 Legislative oversight hearings – all boycotted by the Christie Administration – and at the third and final public hearing on the Gov.’s $1.4 billion second round funding “Action Plan”.

II)  Poorly Run Hearing – Disrespects the Public, Suppresses Dissent, and Limits Testimony

Christie Cabinet on stage again - public treated as spectators again (2/21/14)

Amazingly, the format of last night’s hearing was the same as the ineffective hearing in Stockton last week.

The Christie Cabinet members – all of whom have mismanaged the process – again spoke for one hour of the 3 hour hearing.

In addition to having to listen to incomprehensible bureaucratic program summaries for a full hour, the public’s time was limited, some people could not speak, and those that did were limited to just 3 minutes.

Public testimony was again very poorly managed, as minions walked the floor with microphones as speakers’ names were called.

Don’t these people have a podium? Podiums with microphones could have been set up in front of the panel, allowing speakers to directly address Christie Cabinet officials and look them in the eye. And force the Cabinet bureaucrats to look them in the eye as well.

Instead, people were disrespected, forced to speak across the chasm of another large auditorium, and lots of time was wasted, greatly reducing the number of people who could speak – which probably was the purpose of such poorly run public hearings.

And in addition to all that, signs were posted that prohibited signs! It was obvious that the Gov. didn’t want to see any more “Christie Resign” signs in newspaper photos.

A Middletown police officer speaks to Isabel Newson of Keansburg about her "Resign Christie" sign at Gov. Chris Christie's town hall meeting at a VFW in Port Monmouth. (Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger)


Robert Kull speaks (2/21/14)

III) Subject Matter Experts Ignored – Virtually Beg to Be Included

A representative of the  State Association of Flood Plain Managers spoke. He highlighted their expertise and value in participating in the Sandy recovery process. He noted that the group has been shut out of the Christie Adminsitration’s policy and planning efforts and asked to be included in future efforts.

Bob Kull, a longtime NJ professional planner,  spoke of the values and benefits of planning in guiding positive change. Kull offered the support professional planners in working with various local, county, and state planning efforts and he asked that planners be brought into the process.

Like the subject matter experts in flood plain management, the professional planning community has been cut out of the Adminsitration’s “planning” efforts. As I’ve written, that is because this administration is actively hostile to planning.

IV) Fatal Failures to Prepare and to Plan

I got my 3 minute chance to speak a little over 2 hours into the hearing.

I was again interrupted by Mark Ferzan, Christie’s Sandy Czar and the guy running the hearing, and just at the moment I was making an important point. I now think that this interruption was no accident, but an intentional tactic to divert and derail my testimony.

I made 2 main points: failure to prepare for the storm and failure to plan a recovery.

I explained how NJ Transit was once at the forefront and part of a national pilot program to develop climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation plans for transportation infrastructure.

But, because Gov. Christie was virtually a climate change denier  – ignoring the NJ Global Warming Response Act, slashing a host of climate change related programs, rolling back renewable energy programs, and diverting $1 billion of clean energy money –  NJ Transit Director Weinstein could not present the climate adaptation pilot study to the Gov. and request funds to begin tackling the necessary planning and investment work.

As a result of Gov. Christie’s policy of denial, Weinstein ignored  multiple warnings and NJ Transit had no plan. Thus NJT was unprepared, and suffered a completely avoidable $120 million loss of almost a third of their rolling stock.

As I’ve written, responding to the same policy direction from the Gov.’s Office, similar failures occurred at DEP, where climate change, vulnerability assessment, and coastal management programs were eliminated, scaled back, or defunded. Experienced DEP program managers were sent to DEP’s Bureaucratic Siberia or purged and forced out of the DEP.

For those interested in the substance of all that, see:.

The Huffington Post did a great investigative report of what went wrong, see:  Jersey Shore Development Failures Exposed By Hurricane Sandy

V)  Failure to Consider Climate Change and Sea Level rise

As I’ve written here multiple times, the Christie Administration’s “Action plan” does not consider climate change and the single paragraph that does mention sea level rise provides no mechanisms to implement the science in federally funded state programs and funded projects, as required by new HUD regulations.

This failure to base funding decisions on science extends to the failure to provide transparent, objective and enforceable criteria and standards for the residential buyout program or the purchase of highly vulnerable or environmentally sensitive areas. This invites political intervention and abuse.

Technical flaws also include failure to update DEP’s flood hazard maps – there are thousands of NJ homes and businesses in flood plains that do not know it and people dare rebuilding below known future flood elevations. Therefore have not purchased flood insurance. These people will be wiped out emotionally and financially when the next storm hits.

VI) Failure to make sufficiently detailed and binding commitments

With one exception  (i.e the DEP emergency rules that prematurely adopted the FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations), the Christie “Action Plan” makes a bunch of vague and prospective promises.

The plan lacks detailed initiatives and enforceable commitments.

For example, NJ has a host of plans, programs, and regulations that could form the foundation, technical basis, and planning process to guide Sandy recovery, including

  • the NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan
  • a federally approved Coastal Zone Management Program
  • a coastal land use planning law (CAFRA) and implementing regulations
  • wastewater infrastructure planning program
  • water supply infrastructure planning program
  • flood hazard regulations


HUD must either reject Gov. Christie’s funding plan as deficient and not in compliance with HUD rules and President Obama’s Executive Order, or condition its approval of requirements that NJ and DEP strengthen and deploy the above State tools to manage Sandy recovery and federal funding.

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The Thrill Is Gone

February 21st, 2014 No comments

Note to a lapdog

Gov. Chris Christie met with New Jersey voters on Thursday morning. (Source: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

I read the NY Times coverage of Gov. Christie’s “Town Hall” before going to bed last night and it eased my sleep, see: For Christie, Awkward Return to a Setting He Once Ruled

Finally, I thought, the media understood exactly what the Governor’s Town Hall’s were all about and that he was blaming HUD and using attacks on federal red tape as an excuse.

Over the course of four years, and 110 of the cozy sessions — all recorded by aides and quickly uploaded for consumption by his fast-expanding audience — Mr. Christie transformed himself from a little-known former prosecutor into the public face of New Jersey, a national emblem of straight-talking government, and the most forceful presence in the national Republican Party.

But the two-hour forum here near the Jersey Shore on Thursday, his first since controversy enveloped his administration, demonstrated just how difficult it will be for Mr. Christie to quickly recreate the political magic that once seemed certain to put him in contention for the White House.

The man who once commanded these rooms just by walking into them seemed unmistakably mortal.

As BB King sang: The Thrill is Gone.

Well, it looks like I was wrong.

I just read NJ Spotlight’s story on the same Town Hall – which baffles me, because, in general, Matt Katz is not a lapdog – and had to stop reading to pet the dog and get a cup of coffee before my head exploded: WTF? The headline blared that the the Gov. “Still Wins Over Crowd” – and then I read this bullshit:

Yes, Christie said, he knows that Sandy relief dollars have not gone out to victims as quickly as some may have hoped — but that’s not his administration’s fault. New Jersey did not get enough money from the federal government, which is plagued with bureaucratic rules and delays.

“What happens when you deal with the federal government is the red tape is immeasurable,” he said.

First, the National Flood Insurance Program is a mess, he said, and it explains why government shouldn’t be in the business of running insurance. Second, regulations put in place after fraud in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina have meant delays in getting Sandy victims money, while efforts to get waivers have been rejected by the Obama administration, he charged. And despite his own pleadings in the Oval Office, he said, President Obama refused to waive the rule allowing second homeowners to get funds.

Finally, Christie said, Congress still deserves blame for delaying approval of a Sandy aid package, so money didn’t start flowing until the Memorial Day after the October 2012 storm.

Why do they print the Governor’s blame game without rebuttal?

Are there no experts available on Sandy HUD and FEMA funding that could call out the Gov.’s lies?  (and I don’t mean the same affordable housing advocates who seem to be the only source NJ press corps even knows).

So I fired up this comment, which the pantywaist editors over at Spotlight will probably delete as a “personal attack”. They confuse criticism over there with personal attack.

Why not fact check the Governor’s claims instead of simply transcribing them?

The Gov. has been known to lie.

The federal regulations at issue (HUD and FEMA) were known in advance of Sandy.

Compliance with those regulations should have been a core part of the plan and program that the Christie administration designed.

The Christie administration selected a private consultant to write NJ’s plan and design NJ’s programs. Then they relied on private consultants to administer the programs.

The Christie administration wrote the RFP and the specifications of the contracts for those services.

States have been responsible for the HUD CDGB program since the Nixon administration (created in 1974), so the Christie team must know how it works. [Note: and there is an interesting, ironic, and relevant political history in how the Republicans hated President Johnson’s Great Society Programs because of their individual “entitlement” nature, because of what was called a federal overreach (before the Federalist Society was founded), and because the federal money went directly to cities and urban machines that were mainly democratic outfits. The Nixon administration opposed all that and got Congress to pass a law that block granted about 150 Johnson “entitlement” programs and sent the money to safely controlled Governors, safely insulted from any democratic pressures of the urban masses in more Republican State Houses (does anyone recall “maximum feasible participation”?). Republicans got what they wanted in the CDBG program. But I digress]

The Christie administration was warned about lack of training and staffing requirements and the need for environmental and health (mold) reviews. There were also performance failures from Katrina and other disasters that should have been considered.

The Christie Administration ignored all these warnings.

The Christie administration oversaw the contractors that did such a horrible job.

There, I wrote your story for you in a comment – so have at it next time and stop the lapdog deference. The NY Times wrote a completely different story on the same “Town Hall”.

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DEP Throws in the Towel On Cleanup of Polluted Groundwater at Toxic Sites

February 20th, 2014 No comments

DEP Presents New “Technical Impracticability Guidance”

Groundwater Cleanup Just Too Costly for The Christie Crew

Current and Future Water Supplies at Risk

The DEP’s “Technical Impracticability Guidance” will allow polluters to avoid having to install and operate costly groundwater cleanup systems at potentially hundreds of sites, and it also will allow polluters to “turn off” and abandon existing groundwater pump and treat systems currently operating at hundreds of sites.

Amazingly, DEP has not even analyzed the risks and impacts of  doing this.  ~~~ Bill Wolfe

Ironically, DEP is doing with toxic chemicals in groundwater what we should be doing with fossil fuels: leaving them in the ground.

To a small audience of about 35 industry cleanup contractors (AKA “mercenaries” or officially as “Licensed Site Remediation Professionals, LSRPs), today (2/19/14) DEP presented their new Technical Impracticability Guidance for Groundwater (“TI”).

I recently provided an overview of that, see:  Christie DEP Creates Major Loophole in Groundwater Pollution Cleanup Requirements.

I’d like to say I was stunned by what I heard today, but I’d be lying.

Long ago, originally in the 1993 conversion of ECRA to ISRA and expanded in 1997 Brownfields law, in fact, toxic polluters got relief from permanent and complete cleanups at toxic sites when NJ’s cleanup laws were gutted to allow “engineering and institutional controls” – a legal euphemism for capping contaminated soil in place (instead of excavating it) and filing a deed notice to warn prospective property owners of contamination – what environmentalists deride as “pave and wave”.

But those loopholes were limited to soils, not groundwater, which remained strictly regulated as a potential source of current and future public water supply.

It’s been obvious for a long time that DEP has been running away from enforcing strict groundwater standards as toxic site cleanup requirements. To provide relief, DEP devised various loopholes in the groundwater standards, including a mechanism to define where they don’t apply (i.e. a “Classification Exception Area” (CEA)), and to allow passive remedies and “natural attenuation” where pollution is left in place and just monitored.

But now, DEP has abandoned any regulatory role in site remediation – soils and groundwater – and now has become a servant of the polluters and their consultants under the privatization scheme in the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA).

The DEP has become so flaccid, that DEP now even puts that in writing with caveats in the powerpoint they presented yesterday, like this:

The TI determination is a collaborative process – This is a service not an approval.”

So I came to today’s DEP presentation to ask a series of skeptical questions designed to bring all this out.

Despite a few mild DEP attempts to limit my time, I managed to ask each one and make a few critical observations. DEP managers even managed to respond to a few of them – remarkably, one DEP manager agreed that I made a valid point about lack of public involvement – for which I give them credit.

But instead of going point by point through the DEP’s thorough presentation (which I assume will soon be posted on line, which I will link here), I’ll just run through my list of questions on what I view as the key flaws (and there are several):

1. Origin – justification – need

Before I could ask this question, it was answered by the DEP presentation.

The origin of the issue was when TI was selected by an industry dominated “Technical Guidance Committee” in 2010. Those committees formed to help design and implement the new SRRA program.

The justification and need for TI were never clearly articulated, but it is obvious that the overall policy object was to provide “regulatory relief” and reduction in compliance costs, in accordance with the policy Gov. Christie announced in Executive Order #2 and the criticisms in the Christie “DEP Transition Report”.

So, the origins were really bad and DEP staffers were basically put in a position of doing damage control to policy dictates from the Legislature, Governor, Commissioner, and powerful corporate interests with huge economic stakes in site remediation and redevelopment.

2. Legislative authority and basis

I got to ask what the legislative basis for the TI Guidance was.

The DEP presenter, surprisingly, said there was none.

As I began an big “I told you so and you can’t do that”, another DEP manager jumped into the conversation to explain that the SRRA provides legislative authority to DEP to develop Guiance documents.

I was deeply involved in the Legislative consideration of the SRRA and I can assure you that there was no discussion of rolling back standards, no mention of “technical impracticability”, and absolutely no legislative intent to weaken groundwater standards and drinking water protections. In fact, just the opposite: there were multiple assurances that the standards would NOT be weakened.

DEP is acting lawlessly and inconsistent with law.

If this Guidance were a proposed regulation, it could be struck down as inconsistent with legislative intent. But the Legislature has no specific power over Guidance, other than oversight and budget powers.

3. Inconsistency with recent legislative ban on Guidance documents

In January 2012, Governor Christie signed a law that prohibits the use of Guidance documents, and directs State agencies to follow rule making procedures, see P.L. 2011, c. 215

The legislation was an industry backed bill that was targeted at DEP and I testified in opposition to it as it move through the Legislature (NJ Spotlight 3/4/10)

The action by the committee, recently reconstituted by the Democratic leadership in the Legislature, drew strong criticism from environmental advocates who argued it could undermine public health and environmental protections.

“There is need for discretion,” said Bill Wolfe, of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an employee watchdog group and former DEP manager, who feared the bill might handcuff the agency in protecting public health. “It may take away the current enforcement discretion of the department, which would be bad.”

I wrote about it when it passed both houses and was sent to Gov. Christie, see:  Bill Banning Enforcement of Guidance Moves to Governor Christie’s Desk

The hypocrisy of the chemical industry persuading the Legislature to pass a bill banning guidance documents, and then later using those same Guidance documents as cover for ruling back groundwater cleanup requirements is stunning.

4. Lack of enforceability

The ban on Guidance documents also includes a provision that prohibits the enforcement of anything in a Guidance document:

c.     A regulatory guidance document that has not been adopted as a rule pursuant to P.L.1968, c.410, shall not:

(1)   impose any new or additional requirements that are not included in the State or federal law or rule that the regulatory guidance document is intended to clarify or explain; or

(2)   be used by the State agency as a substitute for the State or federal law or rule for enforcement purposes.

So the few safeguards that are in the DEP TI Guidance can not be enforced. DEP admitted this several times.

Worse, under the SRRA, the LSRP’s are given the authority to use “best professional judgement” to ignore any DEP Guidance document or regulatory requirement.

DEP will not be able to enforce the TI Guidance and otherwise control the decisions of private LSRP’s.

So, by opening the door to consideration of cost and technical impracticability, DEP has invited a one way tidal wave for polluters to walk away from cleanup obligations and after having invited it, there is nothing DEP can do to stop that walk away.

5.  Universe of eligible sites

DEP’s TI Guidance lays out several broad factors that define the conditions under which a TI determination may appropriately be made. These factors include hydrology, chemistry, and technology.

They are so broad, that virtually any contaminated groundwater site may be eligible. Ten years ago, there were over 6,000 groundwater contamination sites, and hundreds  more have been discovered since then.

I asked DEP how many sites and how big a land area of the state meet those factors – DEP could not even provide an answer.

6. Expected number of TI cases

When I worked at DEP, before DEP could implement a significant new and resource intensive policy and program, we were required to quantify things like the expected caseload, the staff workload, and the budget for that program. We also would have to design internal review procedures.

So, I asked DEP how many TI cases they projected – would it be 20? 200? 2,000? DId they have staff to manage what appeared to be a very complex program?

Again, DEP had no idea how many TI cases they would become involved in – DEP had not estimated the universe of case, had conducted no workload analysis, had no projected case load, and no budget for the TI program or implementation of the TI Guidance.

This is stunning – a remarkable mismanagement bordering on incompetence. All under the leadership of that private sector management consultant, Bob Martin. Way to go Bob, heck of a Job!

7. Questionable ability to protect human health and the environment –  regional impacts – future changes in land and water use

The TI Guidance suggests that before a TI determination can be made, the LSRP must show that human health and the environment will be protected.

In addition to not being enforceable and allowing the LSRP to make a determination that is an essential governmental role (i.e. protection of public health and drinking water), the TI Guidance is seriously flawed because it is limited to current site conditions, current adjacent land uses, and current uses of the groundwater.

Future nearby land or groundwater uses may change, which increase the human exposure or risks.

One example offered by DEP in response to my question on future conditions was that a town may decide to drill a water supply well nearby.

Amazingly, by allowing polluters to walk away from groundwater cleanups, the DEP is effectively condemning nearby land and limiting future water supply.

8. Inappropriate and unauthorized consideration of costs

DEP stressed that cost was a “secondary consideration” – but that was a thin veneer for the real underlying economic motivation that is driving the TI process.

None of the various site remediation laws – Spill Act, ISRA, Brownfields, and SRRA – authorize DEP to explicitly consider and balance the costs of compliance against protection of public health and the environment. Yet, that is exactly what the TI Guidance allows private LSRP’s to do in deciding whether to walk away from groundwater cleanup requirements.

DEP offered a case study to illustrate the economic implications:

In one case, DEP spent $1.75 million on a groundwater cleanup system. That system cost $200,000 per year to operate.

The TI Guidance will allow polluters to not only avoid having to install and operate these costly systems at potentially hundreds of sites, but it also wil allow polluters to “turn off” and abandon existing groundwater pump and treat systems currently operating at hundreds of sites.

9. Lack of public involvement in DEP Task Forces, which are 100% industry dominated

The need for the TI Guidance was justified and developed by a Committee comprised of all industry representative. There were no environmentalists, no academics, and no public interests representatives on this Committee.

That is totally unacceptable and leads to a biased process and rollbacks of protections of public health and the environment.

10. Lack of transparency and public involvement in implementation

The data gathering, analysis, and decisions about whether or not to cleanup groundwater and protect public water supplies are made by private LSRP.

These decisions have significant impacts not only on health and the environment, but on the value and ability to develop nearby properties. The presence of groundwater contamination makes water supply wells impossible and can effectively condemn properly or strictly limit the ability to develop it or the intensity and type of development.

If government regulations or local zoning did this, it would be attacked by business groups and land owners are a “taking”.

There is no involvement and no review by the public, local government, or impacted nearby property owners. The TI decisions are made by LSRP’s in the dark.

11. The TI is an end run around existing law and regulation for classification of aquifers and site specific relief

The TI Guidance represents an ill advised reversal of longstanding policy on groundwater as public water supply

Groundwater in NJ has long been defined as a public resource and strictly regulated as a public water supply.

But, the law and DEP regulations have allowed site specific exemptions to this policy, if scientifically justified and done with full transparency and public participation.

The mechanism for site specific relief from strict application of groundwater cleanup standards is to reclassify the groundwater as non-potable, i.e. a Class II-B aquifer.

The TI Guidance amounts to an end run around the strict scientific standards and transparency requirements for aquifer reclassification.

12. Misleading to present as consistent with USEPA Superfund program Guidance

DEP states that the TI Guidance is based upon federal US EPA Superfund “Technical Impraticability Waiver Guidance” (it is interesting to note that EPA calls it what it is: a WAIVER – but DEP lies and calls is Guidance). By doing this, DEP implies that the NJ TI Guidance is as protective as the federal Guidance.

But this is highly misleading because the EPA TI Waiver is issued by EPA staff and part of an open and transpsrecnt public process in the Superfund program. All technical judgements, policy calls, and final decisions ae made by EPA and subject to public review.

In contrast, the NJ DEP TI Guidance is administered by private lSRP’s with little NJ DEP oversight. There is no transparency, no public involvement, and no oversight. This is a recipe for disaster (or should I echo that famous Presidential debate line about “that giant sucking sound” on loss of jobs due to NAFTA).

13. Wrong Approach to Groundwater

Groundwater is our current and future water supply and it is linked to and has impacts on the quality of surface water and ecosystems.

It must be careful managed and strictly regulated by a public agency like DEP through open, participatory, and science based planning and regulatory processes.

The SRRA and now this DEP TI Guidance abdicate that DEP responsibility and give private corporate entities effective control over the quality of our groundwater and drinking water supplies.

14. Ill advised reversal of longstanding policy on groundwater as public water supply

Groundwater in NJ has long been defined as a public resource and strictly regulated as a public water supply.

But, the law and DEP regulations have allowed site specific exemptions to this policy, if scientifically justified and done with full transparency and public participation.

The mechanism for site specific relief from strict application of groundwater cleanup standards is to reclassify the groundwater as non-potable, i.e. Class II-B aquifer.

The TI Guidance amounts to an end run around the strict scientific standards and transparency requirements for aquifer reclassification.

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Christie DEP Fails To Enforce Electronic Waste Recycling Law – Program Stalled

February 19th, 2014 No comments

South Jersey flooded with growing piles of electronic waste


DEP failure to enforce the law should spur Legislative oversight hearings

[Update below]

We all know that Gov. Christie’s policy on the environment can be summed up in two words: “regulatory relief”.

We also know that the Christie DEP  has virtually abandoned its traditional enforcement role in favor of a cooperative or supporting role with the  business community in order to promote economic development. As a result, inspections, fines, and penalties have been dramatically slashed and are at record lows.

Those policies have on the ground consequences.

But what we mostly don’t know is how those pro-business lax regulatory oversight Christie policies have impacted the environment, environmental programs, and local governments. There has been very little press reporting and sporadic – at best – environmental group documentation of those impacts.

Well, this quote about an important new electronic waste recycling law sums the situation up:

A state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2011, required manufacturers of electronics to fund the recycling with no charge to the public. They initially seemed to keep up their end of the bargain.

However, starting in the later part of 2013, the manufacturers have refused to fund the recycling operation and the state has taken no action to enforce the act,” Baron said. […]

By state law, electronics must be recycled. They contain toxic materials, including mercury, lead and other heavy metals, so they are not allowed in landfills and residents cannot discard them in their curbside trash.

Those sites are a hazard – and a real toxic risk in the event of a fire.

So, just as we feared, lack of DEP enforcement is killing the market for electronic waste recycling, creating hazardous piles of electronic wastes, and imposing costs on local and county governments.

Read the complete story in this Press Of Atlantic CIty story:

Perhaps this DEP failure to enforce the law will spur Legislative oversight hearings and amendments to strengthen enforcement of the law to assure that the electronics industry pay the full cost of the program.

[Update – This is not the first shortsighted hit on the State’s historically successful recycling program by the Christie Crew – see:  Gov. Christie Raided $42 Million From Recycling Fund – Cuts To Local Programs Reverse Progress

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Plan Envy – New Jersey Has Nothing Like New York’s Climate “Resilience” Plan

February 17th, 2014 No comments

New York’s Plan Dwarfs Gov. Christie’s Lame Effort

Gov. Christie’s New Jersey is a State of Denial

Will HUD Accept NJ’s Deficient Plan?

In preparing for Friday’s final public hearing on Gov. Christie $1.46 Billion second round Sandy Recovery spending plan, I thought I’d compare NJ’s efforts to our neighbors across the Hudson in New York.

Oh my, what a difference a State makes – NJ has nothing like it!

New York’s plan is based upon NY City’s Plan: A Stronger, More Resilient New York.

Comparisons of the NY and NJ plans are quite revealing – and frankly, should make NJ residents ashamed and mad as hell that their Governor is either grossly incompetent or in denial about developing a real plan to address NJ’s high vulnerability to climate change, extreme weather, and sea level rise.

There is no vulnerability assessment in NJ’s “plan”; there is no acknowledgment of deficiencies in current efforts; climate change is not even mentioned at all; and there are perhaps 200 words to describe future efforts to address sea level rise. The Christie plan was developed behind closed doors and with the involvement of hand picked “by invitation only” “Stakeholders” (critics need not apply and are subject to State Police escort out of the DEP building).

In contrast, New York’s plan goes into great detail, is very honest on admitting vulnerabilities and deficiencies in current State and local programs, lays out and makes binding commitments to a host of significant initiatives, and was developed by a robust public education and participation effort.

Of course, New York produced a quality document while NJ’s efforts are vastly inferior in comparison.

Check out this NY admission – could you imagine Gov. Christie or DEP saying this to the real estate interests and residents on the Jersey shore?? No way! It might limit new development and increase their insurance bills! New York admits:

Overall, the story told by the PWMs [updated FEMA maps] is unsurprising but nonetheless troubling. The new 100-year floodplain, roughly corresponding to the areas flooded during Sandy, is larger than indicated on the 1983 maps by about 15 square miles, or 45 percent. The new floodplain includes larger portions of all five boroughs with significant expansion in Brooklyn and Queens. Citywide, there are now 67,700 buildings in the floodplain (an increase of 90 percent over the 1983 FIRMs) encompassing over 534 million square feet of floor area (up 42 percent). The number of residential units in the floodplain has increased to 196,700 (a jump of over 61 percent), with the majority of those residences in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Almost 400,000 New Yorkers now live in the floodplain (up 83 percent)—more living in the floodplain than in any other American city.

I strongly suggest you read the entire New York Plan, but will provide just a taste in this excerpt on current and future vulnerabilities and the urgency to address risks from climate change: (* apologies for breaks in the excerpt below – it is verbatim and a result of column format of the  NY Plan).

Although New York clearly is at risk today, long-term changes in climate will make many extreme events and chronic conditions worse. These changes have, in fact, been underway for some time. As noted earlier, over the last century, sea levels around New York City have risen by more than a foot. Temperatures, too, are climbing. In fact, the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) labeled 2012 the warmest year on record in New York City and in the contiguous United States, with average temperatures in the US 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year ever recorded.

Globally, all signs indicate that these changes will accelerate. Atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide have reached levels that have not been seen on earth for millions of years. Since the onset of the industrial revolution, combustion of fossil fuels and land use changes have led to a roughly 40 percent increase in carbon dioxide levels. Because the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, stays in the atmosphere for 100 years or longer, the climate is essentially “locked in” to some additional warming. Meanwhile, since the late 1970s, global average temperatures have increased by approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit and the volume of sea ice in the Arctic during the month of September has declined by almost 80 percent. Ocean temperatures have also warmed and the vast majority of glaciers have retreated.

Long-term changes in climate mean that when extreme weather events strike, they are likely to be increasingly severe and damaging. As sea levels rise, coastal storms are likely to cause flooding over a larger area and to cause areas already at-risk to flood more frequently than today. As temperatures get warmer, heat waves are expected to become more frequent, last longer, and intensify—posing a serious threat to the city’s power grid and New Yorkers’ health.

Through PlaNYC, the City has been making a concerted effort to understand the effects that climate change will have on New York. A critical part of this effort began as far back as 2008, when Mayor Bloomberg convened the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC)—one of the first American cities to create a body of leading climate and social scientists charged with developing local climate projections. With representatives from leading scientific institutions, such as the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the NPCC brought to bear state-of-the-art global climate models and local observations to analyze future local vulnerabilities.

In 2009, the NPCC released its findings in a groundbreaking report that made predictions for a set of chronic hazards and extreme events likely to confront the city in the future. The report—entitled Climate Risk Information 2009—described a New York that would be far more exposed to climate-related impacts going forward than it is today. For example, the NPCC projected that by mid-century New York could experience sea levels (under a “middle range” scenario) that are up to a foot higher, causing flooding from what is today a 100-year storm to occur two to three times as often. The NPCC also projected that by the 2050s New York was likely to experience more frequent heavy downpours and many more days at or above 90 degrees.

To begin addressing these risks, in 2008 the Mayor convened more than 40 public and private infrastructure operators as part of the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, another PlaNYC initiative. Task Force members used the NPCC projections to evaluate the risks to their infrastructure and identify strategies to address them. For instance, Con Edison assessed how changes in extreme heat would impact future peak electrical load demand, to determine when additional capacity might be required.

The City also took action to strengthen its built environment. For example, the City required new waterfront development to design for the future risk of sea level rise and coastal storms, and passed regulations allowing buildings to elevate electrical equipment to their roofs without special permits. The City also launched the NYCoCool Roofs Program to paint rooftops white, thereby minimizing heat gain.

The work of the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and City agencies demonstrates the power of accurate information to drive thoughtful planning and decision-making. That is why the City has continued to advocate for better and more current information on the risks New York faces. As mentioned earlier, the City pushed for an update to FEMA’s flood maps for New York so the City and its residents and businesses could better understand the existing risks from flooding during coastal storms. However, the City also recognized that even updated FEMA flood maps, because they are based on historic data, will not provide information about the changes that are likely to threaten New York in the future.

To ensure that the City would always have access to the latest information about future climate risks, in September 2012 New York City formally codified the NPCC and the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force when it wrote those two entities into law—the first bill passed by any local government in the country to institutionalize a process for updating local climate projections and identifying and implementing strategies to address climate risks. The new law requires that the NPCC meet twice a year, advise the City and the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force on the latest scientific developments, and update climate projections at least every three years, starting from March 2013.

Of course, in the wake of Sandy, waiting another three years would have been too long. That is why, in January 2013, the City reconvened the NPCC on an emergency basis to update its projections to inform planning for rebuilding and resiliency post-Sandy. NPCC members agreed to participate on an accelerated timetable, setting aside other important research to focus on updating the projections to help New York plan for the future.

Drawing on the latest climate models, recent observations about climate trends, and new information about greenhouse gas emissions, the NPCC updated its 2009 projections—in a document called Climate Risk Information 2013, which it has released concurrent with this report. These projections tell a dire story about New York’s future. (See table: NPCC 2013 Climate Projections; see sidebar: How New York’s Climate Projections are Developed)

The NPCC now projects that, by mid-century, sea levels could rise by more than 2.5 feet, especially if the polar ice sheets melt at a more rapid rate than previously anticipated. That magnitude of sea level rise would threaten  low lying communities in New York with regular and highly disruptive tidal flooding, and make flooding as severe as today’s 100-year storm at the Battery up to five times more likely. The NPCC also predicts it is more likely than not (more than 50 percent probability) that there will be an increase in the most intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic Basin.

Meanwhile, the NPCC also predicts that, by the 2050s, the city could have as many days at or above 90 degrees annually as Birmingham, Alabama has today—a threefold increase over what New York currently experiences. Heat waves could more than triple in frequency, lasting on average one and a half times longer than they do today. Similarly, it is also very likely (more than 90 percent probability) that the New York City area will see an increase in heavy downpours over this time period.

These projections have been subjected to rigorous peer review, and represent the best-available climate science for New York City. However, they are not yet officially recognized by the State or Federal governments because there is no formal mechanism for them to do so. As planning for resiliency moves forward in New York, it will be necessary to make sure that all stakeholders addressing climate change in New York City are using common projections based on the work of the NPCC to avoid confusion or conflicting standards.

The City also has worked with the NPCC to develop a series of “future flood maps” for New York that will help guide the city’s rebuilding and resiliency efforts. These forward-looking maps are created by using a simplified approach that combines the NPCC’s “high end” sea level rise projections with FEMA’s PWMs. The maps illustrate how the 100-year floodplain could increase over the next several decades with these high end projections. Because these maps were not developed using advanced coastal modeling, the accuracy of the flood projections is limited and they are not suitable for evaluating risks to indi- vidual properties. However, they are extremely useful for understanding the general extent of future flood risks. (See map: Future Flood Maps for the 2020s and 2050s; see sidebar: Possible Links Between Sandy and Climate Change)

The new maps show that the area that might be flooded in a 100-year storm in the 2020s could expand to 59 square miles (up 23 percent from the PWMs) and encompass approximately 88,800 buildings (up 31 percent). With more than 2.5 feet of sea level rise, New York City’s 100-year floodplain in the 2050s could be 72 square miles—a staggering 24 percent or nearly a quarter of the city—an area that today contains approximately 114,000 buildings (almost twice as many as indicated by the PWMs). This area currently accounts for 97 percent of the city’s power generation capacity, 20 percent of its hospital beds, and a large share of its public housing. Over 800,000 New Yorkers, or 10 percent of the city’s current population, now live in the 100-year floodplain projected for the 2050s—a number of flood- vulnerable residents that is greater than the total number of people living in the entire city of Boston.

Building on the information contained in these future flood maps, the City also commissioned an analysis of the economic impacts of projected changes in the city’s vulnerability to coastal storms. This work was completed by Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers (a company that, because it provides its clients with reinsurance and insurance protection against natural catastrophe risks, has devel- oped expertise in projecting the probability of extreme weather and the resulting damage). Unlike the risk represented in FEMA’s maps, Swiss Re took into account the potential damage caused by both flooding and high winds. Their analysis shows that the combination of rising sea levels and more intense storms is expected to come with significant costs—costs that will be measured in many billions of dollars. (See sidebar: Expected Loss Modeling and Cost-Benefit Analysis)

With analytical tools such as the Swiss Re model, the City has yet another way of assessing the likelihood and impact of coastal storms on New York. Still the model does not assess the impact of extreme events beyond coastal storms (which include both storm surge and wind), nor does it assess potential public health impacts of coastal storms and other extreme weather events such as heat waves.

The City, however, has been working to fill this gap in understanding the public health risks posed to New York by climate change. As part of the Climate-Ready Cities and States Initiative, the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has been estimating health risks, identifying vulnerable populations, and developing public health adaptation strategies for extreme heat and other climate hazards. For example, without mitigation, hotter summers predicted for the 2020s (based on the NPCC 2009 projections), could cause an estimated 30 to 70 percent increase in heat-related deaths, or about 110 to 260 additional heat- related deaths per year on average in New York City compared to the baseline period for the analysis (1998–2002). Additional work will be necessary to refine these projections and identify strategies with which to respond, but this analysis is an important starting point that illustrates, in yet another way, the stakes associated with climate change.

The remainder of this report outlines specific initiatives to address the current and future climate change-related vulnerabilities faced by New York as outlined above. But these initiatives will be most effective only if they continue to be informed by the best-available science. And while New York has been a global leader in this area, there is still more that the City can do—on its own and with the Federal government—to improve the quality of the data and tools available to it.

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