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North Carolina Environment Gets a Taste of Christie DEP “Customer Service” Policy

 Stunning Similarities in Anti-Environmental Policy and Slogan

North Carolina Gets Coal Ash Spills – NJ Gets Chemical Spills

DEP’s “Burning Platform” used as threats to employees who didn’t go along with Christie/Martin agenda

Bill Wolfe, a former DEP official who frequently blogs now about the inner workings of the Christie administration, compared it to a governor deciding that the speed limit did not apply in a certain area where a friend of his got caught.

“These are laws. You can’t just assert politics to compromise science and the regulatory regime,” he said. “I can’t recall anything like this where you have two explicit denials. That is pretty hard to turn around.”  ~~~ “Why is WalMart Paying Chris Christie’s Pals?”  The Daily Beast (2/18/14)

The New York Times is running a page one killer must read story today, see:

(interestingly, the article was originally titled “Coal Ash Spill Reveals Transformation of North Carolina Agency”)

The Times’ story goes into great detail and nails virtually all the policies and  tools that were deployed by the North Carolina Governor and his minions to “defang the watchdog” –

While some may think this only goes on in backward southern states, few understand that every single North Carolina policy the Times exposed is shared and also has been deployed in NJ by the Christie Administration, and often relying on exactly the same slogans!

I’ve written about virtually all these issues for 5 years now, so let me highlight just a few, and show the North Carolina abuse followed by an example of NJ’s abuses under the Christie administration – but please read the whole NYT story:

I)  “Customer Service” – Employee Threats

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”


Amy Adams, a former supervisor who left the agency last year, said that the mantra of the current leadership was about “customer service,” but that did not include citizens who might live downstream from a polluter.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration:

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin’s first priority was to announce a new “customer service” focus: (see “DEP Transformation Plan”


Lastly, we have already begun to invite managers and staff to participate in customer service training. As we roll out our formal comprehensive customer training series this month, Commissioner Martin will hold Assistant Commissioners personally accountable to ensure that they, their managers and their staff participate. The training will be multifaceted with the focus on ensuring continued improvements in providing excellent customer service by all staff. All staff will attend a one day interactive workshop focusing on understanding the basics of internal and external customer service, determining caller’s needs, implementing conflict resolution, handling irate customers, learning key steps to a positive attitude, brainstorming on application of best practices and role-playing exercises demonstrating bad and good customer service. Additionally, managers will be required to participate in continuing education courses to be completed over an eight month period. Monthly meetings will be required for participants to discuss application of the online learning courses, share best practices and problem-solve implementation issues with peers.

For threats to employees who don’t provide sufficient “customer service”, see the DEP’s “Burning Platform”

For the climate of intimidation and morale inside DEP and threats, see: Why “Nobody Raised Their Hand”

II)  “Transformation” as code for regulatory rollbacks and politicization of science and decision making

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: (see: “DEP Transformation Plan”:

The Commissioner has identified program specific priorities and transformation priorities. To achieve the objectives of the transformation priorities, all of us must be not only willing but also committed to making fundamental changes in how we function and in how we think about what we do daily.

Of course, DEP Commissioner Martin’s “Tansformation” included a new mission to “promote economic development”. Here’s what the legal professionals said about that:

“I don’t see anything in (the state law detailing the DEP’s powers) that has to do with promoting the economy”, said Jeff Climpson, environment section chief in the state Office of Legislative Services, which drafts state legislation. (Push to weigh economic impacts creates stir. Todd Bates. Asbury Park Press 4/11/10)

III)  Threats to Cut Budget and Target Cuts To Overcome “Bureaucratic Resistance”

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: (see: “DEP’s “Burning Platform” (slide depicted above), a powerpoint presentation that was used as overt threat to slash budgets, transfer, or layoff employees who did not “get on board” with the Christie Martin agenda.

IV)  Priority to Expedite Permits & Slash “Job Killing Red Tape” – Little media accountability

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

They [Republicans] have affected voting rights and unemployment benefits, as well as what Republicans called “job-killing” environmental regulations, which have received less notice.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration:see:

V)  Gut Enforcement

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

She and others said they were told to stop writing Notices of Violation to polluters, which can prompt fines, and instead to issue a Notice of Deficiency, which she likened to a state trooper giving a warning instead of a speeding ticket.

“I was asked directly by members of my staff, ‘Do we even do enforcements anymore?’ ” said Ms. Adams, who wrote an opinion column about the agency’s “soul-crushing takeover” for The News & Observer of Raleigh after she resigned.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: see:

VI)  Political Appointees Over-rule Civil Service Agency Professionals

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

“They’re terrified,” said John Dorney, a retired supervisor who keeps in touch with many current employees. “Now these people have to take a deep breath and say, ‘I know what the rules require, but what does the political process want me to do?’ ”

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: (see previous link to DEP’s “Burning Platform” and Concentration of Corporate Cronies Increases on Christie DEP Management Team

VII)  Downplay , Ignore, and Allow Politics to Trump Science

North Carolina practice exposed by NY Times:

A second supervisor, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “A lot of us never considered ourselves political creatures. What’s happened here has really blown us out of the water. People speak in hushed tones in the hallway to each other. We go offsite to talk. It’s totally changed the culture of this organization.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: see:  DEP Science and Regulatory Standards in Disarray

VIII)  The “Bureaucratic Shuffle”

North Carolina abuse exposed by NY Times:

Susan Wilson, an environmental engineer who inspected storm-water runoff at factories and subdivisions, quit last year after her duties were transferred to another department with little expertise in the subject. She said the bureaucratic shuffle was meant to satisfy developers.

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: DEPO Commissioner Martin has shuffled DEP senior staff and mangers all over the place to create chaos and dsysfuction, see:

IX)  Rig the Regulatory Process and Politicize Management to Control Professionals

North Carolina abuse exposed by NY Times:

Last year, the environment agency’s budget for water pollution programs was cut by 10.2 percent, a bipartisan commission that approves regulations was reorganized to include only Republican appointees, and the governor vastly expanded the number of agency employees exempt from civil service protections, to 179 from 24.

The effect, said midlevel supervisors who now serve at the pleasure of the governor, is that they are hesitant to crack down on polluters who might complain to Mr. Skvarla or a lawmaker, at the risk of their jobs. Several spoke anonymously out of fear of being fired.

“They want to have a hammer to come down on anybody who hinders developers by enforcing regulations,” said a supervisor whose department is supposed to regulate businesses under laws devised to protect water quality. “We’re scared to death to say no to anyone anymore.”

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration:

For the NJ variant of the NC “bipartisan Commission” that controls adoption of regulations, we note that Governor Christie has revised the regulatory process via executive orders to allow special interests to work behind the scenes to kill, weaken, or delay regulations behind the scenes through the Lt. Gov.’s (Red Tape Czar”) Office, see:

X)  Back room Deals

North Carolina abuse exposed by NY Times:

“They did a behind-closed-doors settlement with the lawbreaker, and it requires no cleanup of one ounce of pollution or movement of one ounce of ash,” said Frank Holleman, a senior lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued on behalf of environmental groups. “The state has been a barrier at every turn.”

New Jersey abuse under the Christie Administration: (see: DEP Dispute Resolution Done in the Dark

As my friend Margo said, compared to North Carolina, all NJ lacks is coal.

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