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Is Murphy DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe On The Way Out The Door?

Friday Night Massacre At DEP? – “there is a lot of weird here”

Gov.s’ Office Installs Interim Commissioner Over DEP Deputy Deb Mans

Gov. Murphy Further Politicized a DEP Already Deeply In Disarray

[Update below]

According to a press report, Gov. Murphy has made a highly unusual Saturday announcement – via twitter – that DEP Commissioner McCabe is traveling out of State for the month of September and will be replaced by a Gov. Office staffer, not DEP Deputy Commissioner Debbie Mans. Follow.

From the beginning, we have been highly critical of NJ Gov. Murphy’s choice for DEP Commissioner, Catherine McCabe, and written many posts on her ineffective leadership of DEP, particularly on addressing climate change (most recently, see:

McCabe – who was not confirmed by the Senate until late June and has allowed Senate President Sweeney and Assemblyman McKeon to install their former staffers and political operatives in DEP policy positions – has charted a course of “continuity with many controversial Christie DEP policies.

She has blind sided and embarrassed the Governor in the press, lacked any media message or policy agenda, and been an ineffective leader of DEP and proven incapable of reforming the status quo (see:

McCabe has been humiliated and cut out of the policy loop on climate change, allowing DEP leadership to be usurped by BPU and the Energy Master Plan. Similarly, McCabe was cut out of Natural Resource Damage policy by the Attorney General. Former political operatives in the Legislature that were installed as Chief of Staff and Director of Government Relations appear to be working behind her back with Democrats in the legislature, again, undermining DEP leadership and credibility by politicizing decisions.

Similarly, we have pointed out that McCabe’s selection of  so called “environmental leader” Debbie Mans as Deputy Commissioner was a purely symbolic gesture and cynical political appointment. Mans is no leader and lacks qualifications for the job, see:

We’ve predicted that McCabe would suffer a very short tenure, much like Gov. Florio’s initial pick for DEP Commissioner, Judy Yaskin, who served for several months before being replaced by Scott Weiner. We wrote:

While Acting Commissioner McCabe seems to be hiding under her desk in Trenton – is she trying to avoid Judy Yaskin’s fate? – Gov. Murphy has not rescinded Gov. Christie’s anti-regulatory and privatization Executive Orders (#1-#4; #17), but instead has shown a disturbing continuity with some of the worst Christie environmental policies, including: (read entire post for list)

But, while McCabe is floundering and failing to lead, at least Judy Yaskin was forced out because she took strong pro-environmental positions, as we noted:

I could be wrong – perhaps McCabe has done her homework and just doesn’t want to step out of the corporate Democrat line and become another deposed DEP Commissioner like her only female predecessor, Judy Yaskin, see: this old NJ Spotlight story:

“In the case of the Salem nuclear power plants, the controversy stretches back nearly three decades to the days of former Gov. Jim Florio’s administration. Then-Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Judith Yaskin ordered cooling towers to installed at Salem — at a cost at that time estimated to be $2 billion –– citing a study that found the plant killed more fish each year than commercial fishermen harvested from Delaware Bay. …

Scott Weiner, who succeeded Yaskin as DEP commissioner, reversed the Salem cooling-tower decision. Instead, PSEG agreed to undertake a massive restoration program of more than 20,000 acres of tidal wetlands along the shores of the Delaware Bay. After he left state government, Weiner worked briefly as a consultant to PSEG.

So, we were not surprised that Bergen Record environmental reporter Scott Fallon, who seems to have broken a very interesting story that suggests McCabe’s imminent demise, tweeted this:

Saturday morning press release from @GovMurphy: DEP Commish will be traveling out of state “for the month of September”. No other details given. Kathleen Frangione from Govs (sic) office will be acting commish, (sic) not DEP no. 2 Debbie Mans.

There is a lot of weird here.

(I can’t provide the original tweet because Fallon has blocked me for criticizing his reporting).

Curiously, I went to @GovMurphy twitter feed and could not find the Saturday morning tweet Fallon refers to, so I assume that its been taken down. That only thickens the plot.

So I agree with Fallon that “there is a lot of weird here”.

My sense is that McCabe is “traveling” and will make a graceful exit by resigning when she returns for “family” or “personal” reasons.

The installation of Chief Policy Advisor Kathleen Frangione from the Gov.’s Office as interim DEP Commissioner instead of Deputy Commissioner Debbie Mans is not only a vote of no confidence in an a humiliating blow to Mans, it also validates what we’ve long said: that Mans was not qualified, not a leader, and always just a symbolic and totally cynical political appointment.

And it further politicized a DEP that is already deeply in disarray – although Frangione is said to be a climate policy expert. (but as a DC beltway lobbyist and Congressional staffer, not an expert or advocate)

[OMG, I just watched that Princeton talk. Frangione spoke more like a press agent than a policy expert. Jeanne Fox hovered over her to make sure she said nothing about policy decisions or political controversies. Frangione’s presentation was absent substantive content and data, it misrepresented current law (e.g. re: authorized uses of RGGI funds, the non-binding effect of Executive Orders, and with mis-statements about “DEP regulations”, etc) and loaded with slogans. If that’s what passes as a policy expert from Harvard and Yale, we’re doomed.]

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

In the meantime, DEP folks or anyone with valid information about all this can shoot me an email at:  bill_wolfe@comcast.net

[Update: A knowledgeable reader sent me the following note, suggesting that I exaggerate:

She has vacation house in Ocean City near some friends. 

He said going to Australia for month to visit for birth of granddaughter

So, if McCabe is going to Australia for a month, that could shine a light on Murphy’s lack of paid family leave policy.

It must be nice to just take off for a month. But can all NJ workers take a paid month for the birth of a child? Can they afford to do that? Is Murphy helping?

Similarly, is McCabe being paid during her travels? Does taking a month of from a leadership position damage her management credibility and commitment to DEP?

Is even raising these kinds of questions somehow taboo in the new #metoo world of women’s issues?

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