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Christie DEP Adopts Climate Denying Coastal Rule

Legislature Must Veto Irresponsible Christie Plan To Rebuild Coast

In North Carolina, the State Legislature drew national scorn by passing a law that prohibited State regulators from considering climate change and sea level rise in coastal planning and development decisions.

Here in NJ, Governor Christie just accomplished the same objective by merely ignoring the climate issue.

Despite receiving almost 20,000 negative public comments, the unified opposition of the environmental community, rare public criticism by leading professionals and the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance, and a ton of bad press, the Christie DEP just adopted new coastal Zone Management rules that not only ignore climate change and sea level rise, but actively promote development in hazardous and environmentally sensitive locations, while scaling back DEP and public oversight of important coastal land use and development decisions.

I wrote about the rule when DEP proposed it last year, urging legislators to use their Constitutional power to veto the rule as inconsistent with legislative intent, see:

We repeat that veto request today, but instead of rehashing prior posts, will let the words of others make our case. (and look at THIS legislative precedent!)

The following is from the DEP’s response to public comments document – each commenter is named and given a number. But keep in mind that these are DEP’s translations and summaries of the comments. DEP typically softens criticism.

I chose Jon Miller’s comments because they are on point and it is very unusual for a professional association to make such strong public criticism. That is an indicator of just how irresponsible these DEP rules are – and there are additional powerful criticisms regarding destruction of natural resources; e.g. promoting restaurants and marinas in shellfish habitat, which previously was prohibited:

Jon Miller,  on behalf of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management:(#96)

76. COMMENT: Sea level rise, driven by global climate change and by geological, climatic, and human factors particular to our region, poses a growing risk to New Jersey, threatening property, infrastructure, ecosystems, and livelihoods. Intensifying development in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas will magnify this risk. The proposed rules do not consider the effects of sea level rise; incorporating sea level rise into the permitting process is critical if it is to meet its goal of not putting the inhabitants of the New Jersey shore at risk. The Department should address this issue when revising the rules.

Half of the housing stock in northern New Jersey is about 50 years old, and approximately one-sixth is over 80 years old. Construction that takes place today has the potential to place shore residents in harm’s way for much of the rest of this century. Failure to incorporate sea level rise in permitting coastal development is not consistent with sound risk management.

In addition, rules that encourage further development in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding over the course of the century will be costly in both economic and human terms. The Department is strongly urged to revise the rules taking into consideration the effects of sea level rise on flood hazard areas. The commenters provided citations to reports/studies that they assert support their position see Kenneth G. Miller et al., “A Geological Perspective on Sea‐Level Rise and Its Impacts along the U.S. Mid‐Atlantic Coast,” Earth’s Future 1 (2013): 3–18, doi:10.1002/2013EF000135; John Church and Neil White, “Sea‐Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century,” Surveys in Geophysics 32, no. 4 (2011): 585–602, doi:10.1007/s10712‐011‐9119‐1; ; and Trevor Houser et al., American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States (Rhodium Group, 2014), http://www.climateprospectus.org/. (76, 96)

121. COMMENT: The consolidation and simplification of the rules is supported; however, there is concern with respect to increased development in high risk areas. Public safety, property protection, and reducing risk which strengthens local and State economies are paramount. This position is also supported by the New Jersey Legislature through the enactment of CAFRA, at N.J.A.C. 13:19-2, and the Wetlands Act of 1970 at N.J.S.A. 13:9A-1 and 2. The legislative intent of these laws is violated by intensifying density and uses in coastal high hazard areas. The proposed rules do not consider increased risk in coastal development in the impact assessment, whether to the financial interests of local, State, or Federal taxpayers and to the NFIP and other disaster assistance programs well utilized after Superstorm Sandy.

The proposed rules are inappropriate after the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and the lack of integration of future conditions such as sea level rise is reckless in a regulation proposed at this time. The rules need to be reflective of the realities of sea level rise and the storm damage that happened as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Expansion of water dependent uses, easing infill oversight, and revising setbacks from water bodies are intensifying risk.

The extension of permits previously issued and individual permits that allow building on piers waterward of the mean high water line are opposed as these permits are in violation of the building codes and the NFIP. Further, the redevelopment of Atlantic City and the Hudson River Waterfront must be accomplished thoughtfully to minimize flood risk. (96)

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