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Gov. Christie’s Executive Orders That Weakened Environmental Protections Are Still In Effect

Gov. Murphy Has Not Revoked Christie “Regulatory Relief” Policy In Executive Orders

Policy Continuity at DEP – Sole Exception Is RGGI

One of the governors’ more influential powers in reference to directing the policy agenda is in their usage of executive orders. ~~~ Executive Prerogative: The Use of Executive Orders in New Jersey

Gov. Murphy, who criticized Gov. Christie’s environmental policies and campaigned on a platform characterized by the media as “bold green leadership”, was strongly backed by NJ’s environmental and conservation groups, who spent $335,000 to help elect Murphy.

However, a close read of Murphy’s “Protecting the Environment” policy plank of his platform reveals that it is vague, couched in terms of “building a green economy” thereby making economics co-equal with protections, and was limited to just 3 issues: climate change, protecting the shore, and preserving open space. He issued an issue specific policy on protecting the Delaware River from fracking (but not pipelines the carry fracked gas).

There is nothing about the need to restore DEP as an institution, strengthen the role of environmental regulation, or reform specific policies on clean air, clean water, toxic waste management, etc.

Murphy issued another campaign platform called “Building a Green Energy Economy”. It too was vague, but it embraced a more expansive issue set, including rejoining RGGI, promoting off shore wind, energy efficiency, solar, and energy storage.

But despite the ambiguity and narrow scope of Murphy’s policy agenda, the press and environmental groups applauded and, in my view, basically exaggerated Murphy’s commitment to protecting public health and the environment. That exaggeration and cheerleading continued after the election.

After the election, the Murphy Transition Team was stacked with corporate interests, moderate conservationists, and recycled Corzine era lobbyists. The Transition Report on Energy and the Environment did little to flesh out the details of the Gov.’s broad campaign themes in terms of advocating specific policies and regulations.

Thus far, we are deeply disturbed by the fact that, aside from rejoining RGGI, Murphy has shown more of a policy of continuity with the Christie Administration than a “shift at DEP” and a “clean break”:

“This is indicative of a sea change,” Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said of Mans’ appointment. “It’s completely breaking with the Christie era.”

Instead of a “sea change” and “complete break with the Christie era”, we’ve seen lots of evidence of continuity (again, with exception of fracking in the Delaware watershed, but only after the DRBC had already proposed rules to ban it).

At the federal level, while Trump EPA head Scott Pruitt is very vocal and very busy dismantling Obama era regulations, Gov. Murphy and his DEP Commissioner are silent on repeal of Christie Executive Orders and a host of regulatory rollbacks.

Like Gov. Christie, Gov. Murphy:

1. diverted $136 million of Clean Energy Funds – a “clear break” with his multiple campaign promises to restore NJ’s leadership on climate change.

2. diverted $69 million of Volkswagen settlement funds.

3. rubber stamped Christie’s NRD groundwater pollution settlements with Big Oil – an echo of Christie’s sweetheart deal with Exxon.

4. slashed DEP’s budget by at least $6.4 million

5. negotiated a billion dollar nuclear bailout bill with Senate President Sweeney’s gun to his head.

6. Caved to Senator Sweeney and compromised aggressive renewable energy goals as part of the nuke bailout legislative package.

7. maintained silence on the PennEast pipeline controversy, while filing a diversionary FERC lawsuit based on protecting private property rights, not water quality or addressing the climate crisis. Murphy’s AG also rejected PennEast compensation offers based on the economic value of public lands, not water quality and other  environmental impacts.

8. failed to take a position or try to block legislation that would promote Dupont’s ability to import and treat  fracking wastewater and dump into the Delaware River.  As a result of that lack of leadership, the bill is now on the Gov.’s desk.

9. Acting Commissioner McCabe has yet to be confirmed and is being held hostage by Senate President Sweeney. This essentially perpetuates Christie DEP policies.

10. McCabe installed Sweeney’s former Senate staffer, unqualified political operative Eric Wachter, as Chief of Staff.

11. McCabe hired former Gov. Corzine’s environmental policy aid, Deb Mans – while shutting out longtime NJ environmental leaders.

12. McCabe continued Christie’s abuse to allow the Water Supply Advisory Council to meet behind closed doors.

13. McCabe continues Christie DEP State Parks Concessions Policy

14. McCabe continues the Whitman to Christie pro-business, anti-regulatory, “flexible” streamlined permit” air pollution policy (a policy that impacts all DEP permit programs, not just air).

15. McCabe continues Christie DEP’s constant practice of downplaying public health risks and Press Office fact free propaganda on alleged improvements in water quality.

16. McCabe has continued to promote feel good and counter-productive voluntary “stewardship” policies.

17. McCabe has continued Christie’s “engineering” approach to shore protection.

The very first press release McCabe issued upon taking office was an ill advised move to double down on a terrible trifecta: 1) Gov. Christie’s climate denying shore engineering, 2) dredged material disposal, and 3) luxury boat subsidy policies (see: DEP LAUNCHES PROJECT TO REPAIR BEACHES ON LONG BEACH ISLAND USING MATERIALS DREDGED TO MAKE LITTLE EGG INLET CHANNEL SAFE (not to mention the personnel issues involved).

18. McCabe has yet to honor Murphy’s pledge to restore DEP Office of Climate Change and has not revised numerous Christie DEP misleading climate webpages.

19. McCabe has yet to follow through, after Murphy compared Dupont Pompton lakes to Love Canal, thereby emulating Christie DEP’s lip service to that community.

20. McCabe, as far as I can tell, has yet to reorganize DEP and establish her own management team.

But perhaps the most significant continuity is with Gov. Christie’s “regulatory relief” policy, codified in Christie Executive Orders #1, #2, #3, and #4.

Murphy clearly understands the importance of Executive Orders in establishing and communicating his policies, see:  GOV. MURPHY SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER FOR NJ TO REJOIN RGGI.

As I wrote:

… 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”).

Christie’s rulemaking scheme in Executive Order #2 includes an “advanced notice of proposed rules”. This allows private parties, like the lawyers for major corporate polluters, the opportunity to conduct a “pre-proposal review” of any rule DEP is contemplating before it is published for public comment.

Worse, the stated policy objectives of this review process are to provide “immediate relief from regulatory burdens” and “to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

As Eric Clapton said: “kill it before it grows”.

That is corruption in plain sight. Yet not one media report on it.

So Gov. Murphy’s continuing silence on and failure to repeal Christie’s Executive Orders is revealing and deeply troubling.

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