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Murphy DEP Misleading The Public On Efforts to Tackle Climate Change

No New Resources, Professional Staff, Or Regulatory Authority At DEP

Commissioner McCabe’s legislative testimony contradicts public & press statements

NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe is basically lying to the people of NJ regarding what DEP is actually doing to address climate change, and the NJ press corps in printing her lies without fact checking them (taking DEP press releases at face value and not understanding the significant substantive difference between a spun DEP press release and an official DEP regulatory document).

I realize that that’s an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require significant supporting evidence, which we provide below. And we’re not just parsing words and splitting hairs here. We’re talking about blatant contradictions. Word.

NJ Gov. Murphy repeatedly has pledged to make battling climate change a top priority of his administration.

In an attempt to implement the Gov.’s commitments, last October, at a Monmouth University Summit, Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe spoke and DEP issued a press release:


(18/P086) TRENTON – During a summit today at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is launching work on a comprehensive plan to make coastal areas more resilient to the impacts of severe storms and sea-level rise.

The Coastal Resilience Plan will become a blueprint for protection of property, lives, infrastructure and natural environments by guiding policies, regulations, resources and funding.

“Our coast is an ecological and economic treasure, integral to our identity as a state,” Commissioner McCabe said during the Coastal Resilience Summit attended by coastal researchers, municipal officials and other stakeholders. “Faced with the realities of global warming and sea-level rise, it is imperative that we put in place a cohesive, integrated plan that safeguards this treasure.”

Importantly, note that McCabe’s “cohesive, integrated plan” was limited in scope to “resilience” policy in the coastal zone and did not address emissions mitigation.

More recently, last week at Stockton , DEP Commissioner McCabe recognized a far broader need for a “strategic plan for climate change”:

NJDEP Commissioner Expresses Need for Strategic Plan for Climate Change

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe told an audience at Stockton University that the state is in need of a strategic plan for climate change addressing mitigation and resiliency across the entire state.

The commissioner’s talk was part of the 2019 State of New Jersey Beaches forum at Stockton University Atlantic City held on July 1.

“We know there are issues of vulnerability for people and the economy,” McCabe said in a press release from the university. “We think about this a lot at the DEP.”

Aside from the fact that the legislature mandated that DEP develop such a plan 12 years ago, remarkably, McCabe casually dramatically expanded the scope of her original commitment, which was limited to coastal resilience and did not address statewide (inland) resilience and emissions mitigation.

Regardless of what the evolving specific DEP policy commitments are, the Gov.’s statements, public remarks by DEP Commissioner McCabe, and DEP press releases strongly suggest that the Murphy DEP has made significant commitments of resources, professional staff, and regulatory policy changes to address both climate “mitigation” (i.e. reduction of greenhouse gas emissions) and “adaptation” (aka “resilience”) to the impacts of climate change.

But that is all completely false – according to DEP Commissioner McCabe’s own written testimony in response to specific questions posed by the Legislature.

I’ve previously written about the fact that the 2007 Global Warming Response Act mandated the DEP develop a Statewide plan to achieve deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions:

b. No later than June 30, 2008, the department, and any other State agencies, as appropriate, shall prepare a report recommending the measures necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the 2020 limit. The report shall include specific recommendations for legislative and regulatory action that will be necessary to achieve the 2020 limit.

For all the details, see:

I’ve also noted how current DEP regulations fail to address climate change, see:

So, if Gov. Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe are serious about addressing climate change, they must make significant changes at DEP, including an increase in budgeted resources and professional staff and comprehensive regulatory changes to DEP programs.

But, according to DEP Commissioner McCabe’s own written testimony to the legislature, NONE of that is happening (read the excerpt below).

Instead, DEP is merely shuffling the bureaucratic cards – by transferring existing staff and existing resources to a new bureaucratic entity known as the “Office of Climate Resilience” (also note that this new Office is limited in scope to “resilience” (i.e. adaptation) and not emission mitigation).

McCabe has simply bureaucratically restored what DEP Commissioner Campbell created 17 years ago! That Office, created by Campbell in 2002, was abolished by Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner Martin in 2010.

So, let’s get back to our analysis.

During this year’s budget process, the Legislature, through the professionals in the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) specifically asked Commissioner McCabe about the new DEP “Office of Climate Resilience”.

Here is the relevant excerpt from DEP Commissioner McCabe’s response to OLS questions:

17. The FY 2020 Budget-in Brief indicates that the department will establish a new Office of Climate Resilience. The office will work with communities to identify climate change impacts and build on the department’s comprehensive coastal resilience planning effort and its work constructing resilient structures along New Jersey’s coastline and in vulnerable locations.

  • Question: How much funding will be available for the Office of Climate Resilience? What is the expected staff size? How many staff members are expected to be hired? Have any positions been eliminated or any resources been shifted in order to accommodate for this new office? Is the Office of Climate Resilience a reorganization of existing staff and resources? How will the effectiveness of the office be measured?
  • Answer: The final funding level of the Office of Climate Resilience has not yet been determined. Funding will be from existing sources. Available sources that have funded the Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning in the past include federal Coastal Zone Management funds, CBT Watershed Management funds, and a limited amount of General Fund support provided through the Land Use and Water Resource Management programs.The Office of Climate Resilience will continue to support the Department’s obligations aspart of the National Coastal Zone Management Program, which has clearly defined deliverables. Additionally, the office will develop and implement the Coastal Resiliency Plan and provide support to municipalities for resiliency planning through technical assistance, grants and other online tools.
  • Question: Does the office plan on working with, and building upon, the efforts of the Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, the Bureau of Flood Resilience, and the Division of Coastal Engineering? If so, in what capacity? Does the Office of Climate Resilience intend to enhance the mission of the existing offices in the department that are currently working on coastal resilience planning efforts? Are there new functions to be performed by the Office of Climate Resilience that are not being performed within the current organizational structure of the department?
  • Answer:
    Does the office plan on working with, and building upon, the efforts of the Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, the Bureau of Flood Resilience, and the Division of Coastal Engineering? Yes.

If so, in what capacity? Almost all of the staff for the Office of Climate Resilience will come from the Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning so the work of that office will be rolled into the Office of Climate Resilience. There will be close collaboration between the Office of Climate Resilience and the Bureau of Flood Resilience and the Division of Coastal Engineering, especially in the development of a Coastal Resiliency Plan.

Does the Office of Climate Resilience intend to enhance the mission of the existing offices in the department that are currently working on coastal resilience planning efforts? The Office of Climate Resilience will reside in the Office of the Commissioner and play a cross- cutting role in working with all the DEP offices. This shift will allow for the elevation of the mission to the Office of the Commissioner to support Governor Murphy’s priorities.

So, let’s recap what DEP Commissioner McCabe told the legislature, in writing:

  • No new resources to climate change
  • No new staff to climate change.
  • No policy or regulatory commitments to implement any new DEP climate policies
  • No policy commitments regarding emissions mitigation (merely “resilience”)
  • Status quo policy (“close collaboration”) on over-emphasis of engineering approaches to the coast – in contrast to a science based policy of “strategic retreat”

Commissioner McCabe’s written legislative response to specific questions completely contradicts her public statements and press releases.

And it’s not just McCabe’s written testimony to the legislature.

As I’ve written, it is DEP’s current policy regarding the application of air pollution control regulations to greenhouse gas emissions. In case you missed that complex post, here is the DEP regulatory policy, expressed in a response to a public comment on flaws in the BL England power plant air pollution control permit issued by DEP:

“State of the art” in pollution control (SOTA) far too narrow

The DEP regulations define “state of the art” in pollution control (SOTA) very narrowly. According to DEP response to public comment:

Comment: … The commenters stated that regulated GHG emissions could be reduced or eliminated by energy efficiency, reduction in energy demand, demand management, and/or renewable energy; none of these “pollution control” methods were considered.

Response: Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:27-22.2, New Jersey Title V Operating Permit Requirements apply to a facility as defined in N.J.A.C 7:27-22.1. At N.J.A.C. 7:27-22.1, a facility consists of “the combination of all structures, buildings, equipment, control apparatus, storage tanks, source operations, and other operations that are located on a single site or on contiguous or adjacent sites and that are under common control of the same person or persons.” Thus, requirements for off-site measures that are not under control of the owners or operators, such as reduction in energy demand or demand management, are beyond the scope of the NJDEP’s authority to review an operating permit application. Also, the NJDEP cannot redefine a project to include renewable energy.

This DEP interpretation of DEP rules contrasts with a far broader approach under EPA federal rules (and the even broader basis for the Obama EPA Clean Power Plan). Pollution control technology is generally understood and defined by EPA regulations:

“the term “control technology” is defined broadly to be consistent with section 112(d)(2) of the Clean Air Act to include measures, processes, methods, systems or techniques which reduce the volume of, or eliminate emissions of, HAP through process changes, substitution of materials or other modifications; enclose systems or processes to eliminate emissions; collect, capture or treat HAP when released from a process, stack, storage or fugitive emissions point; are design, equipment, work practice, or operational standards; or a combination of the above.

Finally, McCabe’s public statements also contradict DEP’s recent adoption of RGGI regulations that virtually mirror the Trump EPA regulatory approach (as opposed to the broader Obama EPA CPP).

I call bullshit on all that.

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