Home > Uncategorized > Christie Administration’s Coastal Management Plan Fails to Address Huge Regulatory Gaps In Off Shore Energy Development

Christie Administration’s Coastal Management Plan Fails to Address Huge Regulatory Gaps In Off Shore Energy Development

Why Is Gov. Christie Invisible On Obama Off Shore Drilling Plan?

No wonder DEP conducts ocean and coastal planning behind closed doors and by invitation only 

Today we briefly follow up on two recent posts, one about the fact that DEP was conducting important coastal planning behind closed doors and by invitation only – the other about Gov. Christie’s failure to clarify his now 5 year old stance with respect to the Obama administration’s off shore drilling plans.

With all the controversy and public opposition regarding various off shore energy development proposals – from the Obama Administration’s proposal to allow oil & gas drilling in the Atlantic to the off shore “Port Ambrose” LNG export facility – I thought I’d take a look at how the current NJ Coastal Management Plan (CMP) strategy addresses off shore energy issues.

Is the CMP meeting it’s objectives?:

Energy & Government Facility Siting

Section 309 Enhancement Objectives

Adoption of procedures and enforceable policies to help facilitate the siting of energy facilities and Government facilities and energy-related activities and Government activities which may be of greater than local significance

The NJ CMP is required under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

The current 2011 – 2015 NJ CMP Coastal Assessment and Strategy is a critical component of that federal CMP requirement.

The current CMP and assessment are now undergoing update, but that process is being conducted behind closed doors and by invitation only.

First of all, the current CMP is outdated and mis-states the facts on off shore wind (see page 33). This masks Gov. Christie’s failure to develop off shore wind capacity under the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (see p. 35).

Second, The CMP flat out misstates the facts on the Energy Master Plan (EMP) (see page 33) regarding renewable energy goals, thereby masking Gov. Christie’s rollback of the prior 30% goal to the statutory minimum of 22.5%.

Third, and most importantly, the CMP finds major gaps in NJ efforts to address the threats from off shore energy development, specifically the lack of enforceable requirements under the Energy Use rule, N.J.A.C. 7:7E-7;  the “Technical Manual for Evaluating Wildlife Impacts of Wind Turbines Requiring Coastal Permits”, and the DEP’s “Ecological Baseline Study” of a 1,300 square mile off shore area.

Huge gaps, classified by DEP as “high priority”,  include a lack of regulation and policy to “inform decision making with respect to the siting of energy facilities” and “Planning for offshore energy development, including consideration of cumulative impacts” (see page 39, DEP table reproduced below)

Source: NJDEP Section 309 Coastal Assessment and Strategy - 2011 - 2015

Source: NJDEP Section 309 Coastal Assessment and Strategy – 2011 – 2015

That’s right: DEP has no regulatory or policy basis to inform decision making regarding the planning or siting of off shore energy facilities or the evaluation of cumulative impacts.

But despite these huge regulatory and policy gaps in high priority issues directly related to off shore energy threats, DEP proposes to do nothing to close these gaps:

Although this enhancement area is important to the Coastal Management Program, it will be addressed under other enhancement areas, as discussed below. 

While no strategy is being developed for this enhancement area, planning for offshore energy development will be addressed under the Ocean Resources strategy. The Coastal Management Office has determined that comprehensive Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning will be the most effective way to address and manage the growing interest in energy development in coastal and offshore waters. The SAMP strategy contemplates the development of a SAMP for the Barnegat Bay watershed, which is affected by one of New Jersey’s four nuclear power plants.

That’s right: no strategy is being developed to close these critical gaps.

So what is DEP doing with MSP and Barnegat Bay SAMP?

When one queries the CMP for progress and action items on how “Marine Spatial Planning” (MSP) is filling these critical regulatory and policy gaps, one comes up completely empty, other than to conclude that MSP has become a very small fig leaf providing very little cover for the do nothing Christie DEP, who has outsourced core DEP regulatory functions (see page 55):

Ocean resource mapping or information system

a) Marine spatial planning is recognized by MARCO member states as a means to advance most, if not all, of the four goals identified by the Mid-Atlantic Governors: Climate Change Adaptation, Ocean Habitat Protection, Offshore Renewable Energy and Water Quality Improvement. MARCO member states are each taking steps to develop offshore spatial plans for ocean waters off their coast and will coordinate through MARCO to ensure plans are integrated across the Mid- Atlantic region. In anticipation of initiating a marine spatial planning process, the five MARCO states have agreed to develop a regional, web-based GIS portal through which Mid-Atlantic Ocean data layers can be publicly viewed. In response to this need, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program has provided funding to The Nature Conservancy to create a prototype data portal for the Mid-Atlantic region. The vision for this project is to provide easy access to regional scale ocean data from beaches out to the submarine canyons at the edge of continental shelf, supplemented with additional state specific data (VA, MD, DE, NJ, NY) and tailored to serve the needs of MARCO. New Jersey Coastal Management Office staff is working closely with the other states and The Nature Conservancy to develop the portal.

Got that? “Anticipation of initiation”? DEP is working with TNC to develop a data portal. That would not close the gaps identified.

But DEP appears to be doing better on MSP than the Barnegat Bay SAMP, which seems to be on a slow train to abandonment – and god forbid that DEP should spend a thin dime on Gov. Christie’s alleged #1 environmental priority, as DEP admits:

The SAMP will take a total of five years and will be funded through the Coastal Zone Management Program’s NOAA Section 309 of the Clean Water Act funds, ensuring that the SAMP will be developed without additional cost to the State.

Meanwhile, huge high priority regulatory and policy gaps that DEP themselves identified remain unaddressed.

  • Why is Gov. Christie invisible on Obama off shore drilling plan?

Eight months ago, I wrote:

Back on March 31, 2010, before he was running for President, Gov. Christie issued a statement opposing the Obama plan:

“I oppose the idea of drilling off the coast of New Jersey,” Governor Christie said, noting that the President’s proposal thus far includes areas off Virginia and the northern tip of Delaware near Cape May in the Delaware Bay. “New Jersey’s coastline is one of our economic engines and I would have to be really convinced of both the economic viability and environmental safety of oil and gas exploration off our coast. At this point, I’m not convinced of either.’

Has he been convinced since then?

Energy industry money to fuel a run for President can be very convincing.

With the Gov.’s political ambitions and a DEP performance like that, no wonder the DEP conducts ocean and coastal planning behind closed doors and by invitation only.

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