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NJ Environmental Regulations Ignore Climate Change

DEP air, water, & land use permits do not consider greenhouse gas emissions or climate impacts

Massive Regulatory Failure Ignored By Gov. Murphy

NJ Gov. Murphy has repeatedly claimed to place a high priority on a science based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and responding to the huge challenges of climate change.

So has his DEP Commissioner McCabe.

But when the NJ Department of environmental protection issues any permit or approval – including for oil and gas pipelines, for fossil fueled power plants, or for any form of development, including coastal or riverfront development that would be inundated by climate driven flooding, storm surge, or sea level rise – the applicant is not required to provide data on greenhouse gas emissions and NJ DEP experts do not review or consider greenhouse gas emissions or climate change impacts.

NJ DEP regulations do not authorize the DEP to condition or deny a permit based on potential greenhouse gas emissions of potential climate impacts.

No NJ DEP regulatory standard is is based on climate science – NONE – including air quality permit standards that govern air permits for major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Does Gov. Murphy even know this?

So, I find it remarkable that Murphy Administration officials – including Attorney General Grewal and NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe – have the chutzpah to criticize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for failing to consider climate change in FERC reviews.

NJ Spotlight reported today:

Not only does FERC ignore climate-change implications, the Attorney General argued the agency fails to consider the full range of environmental impacts. “As the Attorney General for a state impacted by natural gas pipeline approvals, I know that FERC needs to be much more careful in its overall approach to pipelines,’’ he said.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe agreed, saying “now is the time for the agency to analyze and reduce environmental harms. “Reducing and responding to climate change is a priority for the DEP,’’ McCabe said, “and there is an urgent need for FERC to improve its review process to account for all environmental harms.’’

DEP Commissioner McCabe ignores the fatally flawed regulatory standards and review processes of her own agency, while blasting FERC.

That is gross hypocrisy and I call bullshit on it.

Governor Murphy – or his Co-Governor wife Tammy – should pick up the phone and call DEP Commissioner McCabe and ask her how DEP considers greenhouse gas emissions and climate  change impacts in permit decisions, particularly given the McCabe DEP’s recent permits issued to almost 2,000 MW of new fossil fueled power plants and the extension of the Pinelands gas pipeline and BL England power plant permits (which all failed to consider climate change).

And why aren’t NJ environmental groups flagging this issue?

Why do NJ press outlets give NJ DEP and Gov. Murphy a pass on this remarkable hypocrisy?

NJ environmental groups should get to work immediately on drafting a petition for rule making and organizing a Trenton Statehouse press conference to demand that Gov. Murphy direct NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe to promulgate comprehensive regulations to mandate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change risks and impacts in all DEP regulatory decisions.

This would provide a legal basis for DEP to deny permits or require off-sets and/or mitigation for GHG emissions and climate impacts.

As I’ve previously written, former Gov. Florio’s Executive Order #8 provides a model and strategy for how to do this, see:

[End Note: NJ DEP air regulations require some GHG emissions sources to report emissions and some DEP regulations are indirectly based in part on projected climate impacts, e.g. coastal rules consider sea level rise and storm surge, and some infrastructure is subject to 500 year storm frequency purportedly to incorporate climate impacts.

But these are indirect surrogates, i.e. window dressing and do not provide DEP a basis to condition or deny a permit based on GHG emissions or climate impacts.

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