Home > Uncategorized > Christie DEP Hammered By Assembly Budget Committee

Christie DEP Hammered By Assembly Budget Committee

Assemblyman McKeon Drills Down on Exxon deal

Martin Spins and Hides Under the AG’s Skirt

Martin Falsely Attacks Rutgers Barnegat Bay Study

Just a few quick points on yesterday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing on the Christie DEP’s FY’16 proposed budget (listen here 10 am).

First of all, the focus of the Committee was sharper and the questions were more substantive and critical than the Senate’s last week.

  • Climate Change, Adaptation, and Renewable Energy Failures Ignored

The Senate did a better job criticizing the Christie Administration’s across the board abdication on dealing with climate change, adaptation, and renewable energy.

Given the importance of the issues and the miserable performance by the Christie Administration, that is really shocking and unacceptable.

  • McKeon is all over Exxon and Lax Enforcement
Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex)

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex)

Assemblyman McKeon, in particular, did a fine job and led the charge.

He began by pinning Martin down on the Christie’s failure to aggressively enforce the NRD program – just 1 NRD claim filed in 6 years, compared with 161 filed in the prior 6 years.

McKeon asked detailed questions about the Exxon NRD deal and lax inspection and enforcement statistics. He came prepared, at times reading excerpts from the Exxon settlement and DEP’s own enforcement statistics. Bravo McKeon!

Martin refused to answer most of McKeon’s questions based on a sham legal excuse that litigation was still pending and he needed the AG by his side.

Martin’s performance was embarrassing. As McKeon and others have noted, the proposed settlement is now open for public comment (until June 5 – you can comment to:  ExxonMobilBaywaySettlement@DEP.NJ.Gov ). Of course Martin can talk about the proposed settlement – he already issued  a totally inappropriate press release with the AG praising it!

Martin was totally evasive about the 16 additional Exxon sites and 900 gas stations included in the agreement. McKeon also, for the first time, probed the DEP’s concessions to Exxon on any future surface water NRD recovery (I’ve written about that and the full agreement here).

Martin arrogantly dismissed public opposition, saying that most of the over 5,000 comments submitted thus far were a “form letter”.

McKeon also criticized steep 30 – 60% reductions in DEP inspections and fines since 2010. Martin had no real response to that, claiming that DEP was working to promote compliance

Read the PolitickerNJ  story for some of the details.

  • Privatized Toxic Site Cleanup Program Provided $9 million Subsidy to Polluters

Adding insult to injury, we learned that, thus far, the privatized toxic site cleanup program created under the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act has provided over $9 million in subsidies to polluters via special appropriations to DEP’s budget. Oversight fees paid by polluters have not paid the full cost of the DEP program.

DEP Commissioner Martin said that DEP oversight costs were not being paid – either because the LSRP’s failure to pay oversight costs or because there has been a reduction in oversight fees. That shifts the burden from polluters to the taxpayers.

  • Democrats carry water for big corporate polluters – want DEP permit fees cut

Every year, Assembly Democrats, historically led by Lou Greenwald, read from the script handed to them by the lobbyists for the big polluters and complain about high DEP permit fees.

They do this every year and are never criticized by press or environmental groups and held accountable for it.

Yesterday, repeating that pattern, Assemblyman Burzichelli (D-Oil) and Chairman Schaer strongly criticized DEP for allegedly high pollution permit fees.

Both were carrying the water of polluters – Both legislators were taking an anti-environmental position that is championed by the Chamber of Commerce, NJ BIA, Chemistry Council, Petroleum Council et al.

The corporations want to reduce their permit fees for two reasons: 1) pure greed: increased profits; and 2) to weaken DEP and reduce DEP oversight of their operations.

Lower DEP permit fees results in fewer DEP staff and that means less regulation, weaker permits, and less monitoring, inspection and enforcement.

  • DEP policy and performance criticized across the board

Commissioner Martin got specific critical questions about several DEP programs, including failure to update the Water Supply Plan, efforts to privatize and commercialize Liberty State Park, failure to adopt drinking water standards, and extensive delays in the cleanup of Barnegat Bay.

In an outrageous deception, Martin completely misrepresented scientific peer review findings of Rutgers’ Barnegat Bay study. Martin claimed that peer reviewers claimed that Rutgers’ findings “not in line with data”. That is false (read peer review comments here).

Q: Are the written conclusions in line with data presented? Should there be any concerns regarding poor statistical correlations?

Summary of Peer Reviewer Responses: The Nutrient Assessment report authors’ conclusions were considered a legitimate interpretation of the data presented in most cases – poor statistical correlations are expected with ecological data. However, data gaps, asynchronous data, and poorly correlated data required that the Nutrient Assessment report authors make a number of assumptions in their analyses, and therefore the conclusions presented may not be the only possible interpretation. While the Nutrient Assessment report authors’ overall conclusion that BB-LEH is a eutrophic estuary is likely valid, a number of the statements made and trends presented are not sufficiently justified in the report.

With respect to special urban issues, legislators complained that those needs were neglected by DEP, including funding for brownfields cleanup, parks, and water infrastructure.

In response, Martin made it obvious that the Christie DEP has no overall vision or plan for urban NJ, and instead is diverting funds from urban environmental programs.

  • Restoration of Parks & Water Resource Programs Cut By Open Space

I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but, based on questions, it is obvious that the Keep It Green Coalition continues to lie, spin, and mislead legislators.

NJ Spotlight also continues to follow the company (Foundation funded) line, this time, pouncing on and crafting a false narrative around Assemblyman Singleton’s slogan, calling the restoration of funds a “bait and switch”.

I am a severe Christie/Martin critic – but there was no “bait and switch”.

The Christie Administration OPPOSED the Open Space ballot question, so how could they be accused of “baiting” the voters? To be a true “bait and switch” the Christie Adminisration would have had to support the open space ballot Q. They didn’t. So there can’t be a “bait and switch”.

If Spotlight wants to use commonplace analogies, there was a “Rob Peter to pay Paul” – and it was created by the deceptive Keep It Green Coalition million dollar PR campaign that misled voters.

It is wrong to compare the restoration of $20 million in parks and water resource funds that were diverted by the open space ballot with prior HUGE $1 billion diversions of Clean Energy, landfill closure, recycling et al funds.

The prior diversions took funds earmarked for environmental programs away – the current restoration resorts funds to environmental programs that were diverted by the Open Space ballot.

Shame on Keep It Green for continued spin and lies to Legislators who don’t understand environmental programs.

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