Home > Uncategorized > It’s March 1st – Do You Know Where Gov. Murphy’s Environmental Team Is?

It’s March 1st – Do You Know Where Gov. Murphy’s Environmental Team Is?

Christie Holdovers Now Openly Sandbagging Murphy’s Policy Commitments

No appointments in place at DEP, Highlands and Pinelands

Senator Sweeney’s Mole as Chief of Staff at DEP

What the hell is going on?

One way President Trump is radically dismantling government is by failure to make appointments to fill vacancies at key federal agencies: see NPR, “Hollow government by design” (a variant of Grover Norquist’s strategy of drowning government in the bathtub) and by appointing incompetent, unqualified, ideological hacks, and/or industry lobbyists to key policy positions (think EPA’s Scott Pruitt).

[Update 3/7/18 – Echoing the point I made above, today Propublica released this bombshell on Trump appointments, see:  Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government , Fine minds do think alike, but some get ignored. ~~~ end update]

Something similar but not quite as extreme is happening in NJ due to inaction by Gov. Murphy.

He seems unwilling or incapable of getting his own people (or good people) in office and purging Gov. Christie’s holdovers who are sabotaging his agenda.

NJ Spotlight reports today that Gov. Christie’s BPU President and former fossil energy industry lobbyist Richard Mroz and patronage BPU appointment Dianne Solomon are openly sabotaging Gov. Murphy’s renewable energy commitments on wind.

[Clarification: a reader notes that BPU Commissioners enjoy 6 years terms and Mroz and Solomon have at least a year to go – thus Murphy can’t replace them. But that doesn’t absolve Murphy for DEP or Highlands or Pinelands inaction, or agreeing to Sweeney’s aid as DEP Chief of Staff, or not moderating Mroz & Solomon’s overtly partisan attacks. All are signs of weakness or lack of resolve. In contrast, I never recall Democratic appointee go along to get along Joe Fiordaliso attacking Gov. Christie policies. Or Democrat Commissioner Chivukula. Dems roll over again and again.]

Mroz threw an economic monkey-wrench into Murphy’s wind policy – the same rationale he used to kill  wind for 8 years. Spotlight reported:

BPU Commissioner Richard Mroz cautioned about those costs.

“As of this day, we have no foundation to know what offshore wind will cost,” said Mroz, who during a stint as agency president under Christie took no action to push the technology forward, nor the regulations to finance the offshore wind farms. “In the future, we will confront very tough decisions to make.”

Republican Solomon – wife of Lee Solomon, Gov. Christie’s climate denying first BPU President  and NJ Supreme Court pick– piled on: (Spotlight)

Fellow BPU Commissioner Diane Solomon agreed. Referring to offshore wind, Solomon, a fellow Republican, said: “It must be economically competitive and benefit ratepayers. It’s prudent to move ahead cautiously.”

And we predicted that Gov. Murphy’s BPU President, go along to get along “Pipeline Joe” Fiordaliso, would not be a leader at BPU. Latest evidence: check out this equivocation that inspires zero confidence in BPU’s ability to deliver on Gov. Murphy’s commitments:(Spotlight)

I believe we have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate, change,” Fiordaliso said. “Will we be successful? I don’t know, but we won’t be if we don’t try.”

No timeframe

But Fiordaliso declined to project a timeframe for how long it would take to develop the regulations, nor the strategic plan for offshore wind.

What the hell is going on?

That open sandbagging and flaccid “leadership” prompted me to followup on a prior post about Senator Sweeney’s block on confirmation of Murphy’s DEP Commissioner, and McCabe’s own first mis-step in selection of her Deputy Commissioner .

The current reality is actually worse than I imagined.

I)  Let’s first look at DEP

Aside from Deputy Commissioner mis-step, Acting Commissioner McCabe’s only other personnel decision was installing Eric Wachter as Chief of Staff Government/Legislative Affairs. That’s actually worse than Debbie Mans.

Mr. Wachter is a policy lightweight – he has zero environmental science, law, or policy background or advocacy experience.

He was an administrative gopher and loyal paper pusher for Lisa Jackson at DEP and US EPA.

Worse, Wachter is a Sweeney mole. As Insider NJ reported on August 29, 2017:

Senator Sweeney also announced the hiring of Eric Wachter as a Deputy Executive Director in the Senate Majority Office.

“Eric brings experience at both the state and federal levels to the position and has the knowledge and background to hit the ground running. I know he will make a great addition to the Senate Majority Office staff and am pleased to have him join our team,” said Senator Sweeney.

…  Wachter earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame.

In addition to two bad personnel decisions, Acting Commissioner McCabe has not named her own management team.

There also are several Christie Administration “regulatory relief” policy Offices and political patronage appointees of “culture change” Bob Martin that remain at McCabe’s DEP, including: (these are just a few of the political appointees. And Bob Martin’s entire DEP management team and many lower level loyalists are still in place):

1) Bob Bostock – a former Christie Whitman hack and still head of Murphy DEP Commissioner’s Communications Office.

2)  Lawrence Hajna – still spinning the science and downplaying risks at Murphy DEP Press Office

3) Raymond S. Papperman – Martin patronage appointment and still working in McCabe’s Commissioner’s Office.

4) Bob Martin’s Office of Economic Analysis, headed by Director Ben Witherell, still advocating Martin’s policy that DEP’s mission includes promotion of economic development and Christie’s cost benefit analysis policy under EO#2.

There have been no public statements or mention of any DEP reform priorities or new policy initiatives.

II)  Let’s Look At Executive Orders

Worse, while Gov. Murphy has found the time to issue a series of hollow symbolic Executive Orders on promoting wind (just sandbagged by his BPU!), rejoining a lame RGGI – with a rhetorical EJ policy too – and another that establishes a Council on Economic Advisors that elevates the role of economics and undermines DEP’s role in climate, energy and water resource infrastructure policy, there are several really bad Executive Orders by Governor Christie that remain in place, including Executive Order #2 (“regulatory relief”; cost benefit analysis, and federal consistency policies) and Executive Order #3 (slash “job killing red tape”).

III)  Don’t Forget Appointment Powers – MIA at the Highlands and Pinelands

Finally, there has been no action by Gov. Murphy to deal with Gov. Christie’s horrible appointments at the Highlands Council and Pinelands Commission, including removal and replacement of Executive Directors Wittenberg and Nordstrom.

Like I said: What the hell is going on?

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