Home > Uncategorized > Senator Sweeney Goes Beyond “Mansplaining” – Uses Murphy DEP Nominee As Political Prop To Undermine Wetlands Enforcement

Senator Sweeney Goes Beyond “Mansplaining” – Uses Murphy DEP Nominee As Political Prop To Undermine Wetlands Enforcement

McCabe Capitulates To Sweeney Arm Twisting 

A Down Payment On Confirmation?

Or Will McCabe Uphold Staff Enforcement Action?

Echoes of the “Torricelli Tour”

(L-R) Senate President Sweeney; Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe; Assemblyman Burzichelli (Source: YouTube)

(L-R) Senate President Sweeney; Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe; Assemblyman Burzichelli (Source: YouTube)

When the Senate President can hold a DEP Commissioner hostage and extort a political deal to make DEP stand down on enforcement of an egregious wetlands violation, we’re beyond the rule of law and all principled governing.

NJ Senate President Sweeney – who is still holding Gov. Murphy’s nominee for DEP Commissioner hostage by blocking her Senate confirmation hearings – is now demanding that McCabe abandon an enforcement action for an egregious violation of NJ’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act.

I won’t rehash it here, because the nasty story is told in great detail in the following recent news stories:

Those stories reveal a well orchestrated political campaign – the first news report coming just before Gov. Murphy’s inauguration and the second one just days later. Sadly, Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe immediately halted the enforcement of the State’s wetlands laws, purportedly under her “transition review”:

“Acting Commissioner Catherine McCabe is aware of the situation and will be reviewing it, among a number of other issues she will be reviewing during the transition,” said DEP Spokesman Larry Hajna.

Strike one – that move does not inspire confidence.

Incredibly, McCabe’s “transition” review sounds a lot like the kind of review Gov. Christie DEP nominee Bob Martin conducted under Christie’s regulatory moratorium and Red Tape review process, i.e. review how to block DEP initiatives to protect the environment and instead provide “regulatory relief”.

But McCabe went far beyond a temporary halt for a transition policy review.

Last week, McCabe, who is an attorney, caved to Sweeney’s demands and toured the site with Senate President Sweeney – thereby totally politicizing an environmental enforcement action.

“I wanted Acting Commissioner McCabe to get a first-hand view of the cabins so that she can understand the perspective of the owners and the community who believe strongly they should be preserved,” said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney before the tour. “They should be given a fair opportunity to make their case to the decision-makers.”

Temporarily halting enforcement purportedly as part of a “transition review” is a bad idea, but at least it is defensible.

Taking a tour with the Senate President, press in tow, is inappropriate, reveals bad judgement, and was a huge mistake.

You can watch the corrupt humiliation on YouTube.

This issue presents a major challenge to McCabe’s integrity and credibility and leadership at DEP.

If she capitulates to Sweeney’s demands and kills the enforcement action for an egregious wetlands violation for equally egregious political reasons, she loses all credibility and the respect of DEP professionals. 

That would be fatal to her leadership of DEP.

As I’ve written before, Gov. Murphy has to get the back of McCabe and stand up to Sweeney’s abuse of power.

When the Senate President can hold a DEP Commissioner hostage and extort a political deal to make DEP stand down on enforcement of on an egregious wetlands violation, we’re beyond the rule of law and all principled governing.

The McCabe Sweeney Tour reminds me of my own humiliating Torricelli Tour.

By far the most corrupt, shameful, and embarrassing thing I ever did in my professional career was when I went to Senator Bob Torricelli’s farm in Hunterdon County to conduct a “field tour” and assure him the DEP would soon nominate the stream that flowed through his property as a “Category One” (C1) water and thereby stop nearby proposed development and keep his backyard green.

I returned to DEP Trenton HQ after the “tour” and immediately met with Commissioner Brad Campbell to advise him that I really resented him making me do that and that I’d never do anything like that again. In response, Campbell claimed that he had not ordered me to conduct the tour, but his political staffer sure made it sound like that when she set it up and essentially directed me to go there.

After I left DEP, I leaked the story to the Star Ledger, who reported a big Sunday edition page one story: Protections for Streams Guard Other Interests – and in that story, Campbell is quoted flat out denying he knew anything about the Torricelli Tour, which is a big lie, because I told him about it.

I realize that the ends don’t justify the means, but in my Tour, at least the corrupt politics were working to BETTER PROTECT the environment, not like McCabe’ Tour, which is designed to thwart enforcement of wetlands laws for an egregious violation.

Word.

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