Home > Uncategorized > The Legislature’s Time Is Better Spent Conducting Oversight Than Passing Environmental Bills For Christie’s Veto Pen

The Legislature’s Time Is Better Spent Conducting Oversight Than Passing Environmental Bills For Christie’s Veto Pen

Use Subpoena Power and Hold Oversight To Expose Failures

After six years of Christie’s systematic rollback, it’s time to account

Don’t wait for a Flint-like disaster to occur

[Update #3 – the artful dodge continues, but they’re warming up!

[Update #2 – 2/22/16 – another good step, but lots more low hanging fruit:

[Update: 2/12/16 – This was not my recommended priority target, but nonetheless a good first step!

~~~ end update]

The first two hearings of the new Legislative session by the Senate Environment Committee – largely repeated by the Assembly Environment Committee – focused on a slew of bills that Gov. Christie has vetoed; e.g. the TMDL bill for Barnegat Bay; allocation of open space funds, promotion of offshore wind, et al.

The formation of a coastal public access Stakeholder group to develop new legislation is also likely to be blocked by the Gov. if its recommendations stray beyond his flawed DEP regulations the Legislature just unwittingly unconditionally authorized.

I can understand the partisan political motivation behind that – it makes Democrats look pro-environment and the Gov. and Republicans look bad –  but it is a total waste of time.

  • The Democrats lack the votes to over-ride the Gov.’s veto –
  • There is no evidence that the Republicans will break loyalty to Christie –
  • There is no reasonable expectation that Christie will reverse policy course –
  • It gives DEP and BPU free hands to continue the status quo and puts no pressure on DEP’s actual implementation and enforcement of environmental laws
  • environmental groups are limited to sound bite media tactics, not policy advocacy
  • there is no opportunity for actual democratic engagement in policy

Passage of good environmental bills this session does not lay the political or policy groundwork for the next Administration or Legislature, if only because it fails to garner sufficient public attention and media coverage to generate public support and momentum towards consensus on reforms.

And there is a big negative downside risk that these tactics could backfire, as the press and public become even more cynical about partisan motivations and lose more confidence in the effectiveness of the Legislature to actually govern.

Instead of this legislative strategy and waste of time, the Legislature could use its oversight powers far more effectively.

If legislators rolled up their sleeves, focused on the substance, and called DEP to account for the Christie policy in a series of oversight hearings, a number of very good things would emerge;

  • flaws in Christie policy would be exposed
  • people and the press could learn that policy has consequences for people’s lives
  • DEP would be held accountable and be less brazen in their rollbacks
  • a focused and substantive policy agenda would begin to emerge for the next Administration
  • the Legislature’s credibility would be enhanced
  • environmental groups would be provided a platform for advocacy

I suggest a series of oversight hearings conducted between now and June passage of the budget on the following policy topics:

1. Status of implementation of the Global Warming Response Act in light of recent science

2. BPU Energy Master Plan and Renewable Energy and Effects of Deregulation

3. Adapting to climate change

4. Status of Clean Water Act programs

5. Status of Clean Air Act programs

6. Status of DEP Enforcement

7. The future of regional planning in the Pinelands and Highlands

8. Urban NJ and environmental justice

9. Status of drinking water programs

10 Status of hazardous waste, RTK, TCPA, and toxic site cleanup

The Legislature should wield subpoenaed power to compel the Christie Administration’s participation.

Those kind of hearings could begin to expose policy decisions – like in Flint Michigan – that put the future of the planet and people’s health at risk.

People and the media could get a better understanding of how policy and regulatory decisions in Trenton impact their lives – and directly participate in the policy deliberations!

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