Chris Christie Leads National Republican Attack on Regulatory Protections
Media, Democrats, and Environmentalist Fail To Even Respond
What explains this capitulation?
Back in March, out on the hustings in Iowa, Christie bragged that he had spent 5 years dismantling environmental regulations, including climate change related regulations (see this post)
“I spent the last 5 years dismanting the overreach that she [NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson] did in New Jersey and our environmental protection area. ~~~~ Gov. Chris Christie, Iowa, 3/7/15
There was little or no response to that Christie “punch in the face” to environmentalists by media, Democrats, or environmentalists themselves.
More recently, again deploying his common tactic of using State government as his campaign tool, Christie politicized DEP to attack the Obama climate plan. Again, no response or pushback to another punch in the face.
So, with a clear field, Christie had both the climate and the “government red tape” issues teed up for the first Presidential debate this week, an event held in the wake of the adoption of the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Predictably, like music to the corporate lobbyists ears, Christie went down that road at the first Republican Presidential debate.
During the debate, Christie was the first to begin the Republican attack on regulatory protections:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — the first candidate to bring up regulations during the debate — pointed to his record of cutting red tape as governor.
“We cut regulations by one-third of what my predecessor put in place,” Christie said. ~~~ Republicans Decry Regulations During GOP Debate (The Hill, 8/6/15)
Although you wouldn’t know it by reading the press, this was not a “pivot” by Gov. Christie to appease the right wing base of Republican primary voters.
In the first hour of his first day in Office, Chris Christie’s first official act was to issue Executive Order #1 to declare a moratorium on regulations:
All proposed regulations and rules, except as herein provided, are hereby frozen and suspended for a period of 90 days commencing on the effective date of this Executive Order.
That was not a symbolic gesture or slogan –
One would think this would get significant attention, because Christie went even further and flat out blamed regulations for the poor performance of the state’s economy: (EO#2)
WHEREAS, New Jersey’s ability to leverage these assets to produce growth and opportunity is being challenged by chronically high costs and regulatory burdens that have resulted in New Jersey’s consistently low rankings nationally on regulatory burdens, costs-of-doing business and similar such economic measures making New Jersey the worst business climate in the nation;
Christie then laid out a radical rollback agenda in companion Executive Orders 2-4, with the “regulatory relief” policy and objectives made clear in Executive Order #2, a policy he calls “common sense”:
1. Block new rules:
For immediate relief from regulatory burdens, State agencies shall:
a. Engage in the “advance notice of rules” by soliciting the advice and views of knowledgeable persons from outside of New Jersey State government, including the private sector and academia, in advance of any rulemaking to provide valuable insights on the proposed rules, and to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.
2. Rollback existing State rules to minimum federal requirements:
b. Within 180 days, redraft rules and processes identified in the subsection a. of this section to ensure that each rule and process is needed to implement the underlying statute and amend or rescind rules or processes that are unnecessary, ineffective, contradictory, redundant, inefficient, needlessly burdensome, that unnecessarily impede economic growth, or that have had unintended negative consequences.
c. Within 180 days, reduce or eliminate areas of regulation where federal regulation now adequately regulates the subject matter.
3. Create loopholes, elevate economic concerns, and be business friendly
c. Adopt rules for “waivers” which recognize that rules can be conflicting or unduly burdensome and shall adopt regulations that allow for waivers from the strict compliance with agency regulations and such waivers shall not be inconsistent with the core missions of the agency. Each State agency shall prepare and publish on its website a policy describing the circumstances in which such waivers will be granted.
d. Employ the use of cost/benefit analyses, as well as scientific and economic research from other jurisdictions, including but not limited to the federal government when conducting an economic impact analysis on a proposed rule.
e. Detail and justify every instance where a proposed rule exceeds the requirements of federal law or regulation. State agencies shall, when promulgating proposed rules, not exceed the requirements of federal law except when required by State statute or in such circumstances where exceeding the requirements of federal law or regulation is necessary in order to achieve a New Jersey specific public policy goal.
f. Take action to cultivate an approach to regulations that values performance-based outcomes and compliance, over the punitive imposition of penalties for technical violations that do not result in negative impacts to the public health, safety or environment.
Common Sense? Or corporate profits?
Over the last 5 years, Gov. Christie’s regulatory policy – imposed by Executive Order and the “cultural change” edicts of his DEP Commissioner – has unilaterally weakened all existing environmental and public health laws and regulatory protections, in favor of pro-business interests.
With one or two minor exceptions, DEP has not adopted new rules that provide additional protections.
There are many examples of how that policy jeopardizes the wellbeing of people and the environment, from failure to protect drinking water from harmful chemicals, to weakening water quality protections, to promoting new development in dangerous flood prone coastal and riverfront areas, to ignoring climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to rising sea levels.
These are obviously NOT common sense measures. It makes no sense to ignore climate change or allow people to unknowing drink unsafe water of promote building in flood hazard zones.
That’s why I encouraged Democrats and environmentalists to take advantage of the national media spotlight of the Presidential campaign and ramp up oversight of the Gov.’s policies, to create a record that would hold him accountable:
- Why Aren’t NJ Democrats Pushing Back Against Christie’s Abuse of Power?
- The Only Heat Christie Gets from Trenton Is The Weather
Democrats and Environmentalists Are Complicit
The media has not written this story because the Democrats and the environmentalist have not focused on it and made it a story.
So when Christie brags about “dismantling” protections and rolling back “red tape” to a national audience, there is no in state pushback or media narrative to hold him accountable – he has a clear field to continue to punch environmentalists in the face.
The Democratic leadership shares many of the Gov.’s pro-business, anti-environmental policies, as they have made very clear.
The latest example of that is instead of making it a “long hot summer” for Gov. Christie via a series of oversight hearings (as I recommended), on Monday – in the wake of the debate punch in the face and the day before hearings on Christie Energy Master Plan – the annual summer hearing of the joint Senate and Assembly Environmental Committees will focus on these earth shattering important issues (snark alert!)):
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee will meet to hear testimony on the cleanup of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge after Superstorm Sandy. The committees will also hear testimony on the need for soil restoration standards.
Wow! Now that’s a real punch in the face, eh? Such pressing issues, such bold leadership to hold Christie accountable for “dismantling” protections for 5 hers now.
Worse, most of the environmental community – enticed by the Foundation grant money – has either abandoned the kind of advocacy and regulatory focus required to document and challenge the Gov.’s record, or is actively supporting the Gov.
Again, like the Democrats, there are numerous examples of how environmental groups have abandoned advocacy or given the Gov. a pass or even political cover, most recently on failing to publicly criticize or mount any opposition to regulatory rollbacks of coastal management or flood hazard regulations, elimination of Category One stream buffers, and waivers for cooling towers at PSEG Hope Creek nuclear plant.
I could go on – I feel ill now, so will stop.
[If you really want to get sick, watch the House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on Obama EPA “regulatory overreach”.]