Home > Uncategorized > The State Of NJ Has Gone BACKWARDS On Climate Change Policy Over The Last 30 Years

The State Of NJ Has Gone BACKWARDS On Climate Change Policy Over The Last 30 Years

A few months ago, the NY Times got a lot of mileage out of an important major story:

That story took an historical overview of the evolution (or devolution) of climate science and public policy debates, ever since world renowned climate scientist Jim Hansen’s groundbreaking testimony to Congress in 1988:

I would like to draw three main conclusions. Number one, the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements. Number two, the global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect. And number three, our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.

[Update 2/3/20 – My apologies to “Wally” for missing his work – Dr. Wallace S. Broecker – “grandfather” of global warming science, who just died.]

Sadly, that NYT story did not prompt followup investigative pieces or spark public outrage – and certainly none in New Jersey, a purported national leader in environment, energy and climate science and policy.

So, I took a cursory look at relevant NJ policy history, and quickly came to the stunning conclusion that NJ has gone BACKWARDS on climate policy over the last 30 years, the same period of time that science has shown the problems getting far worse and much quicker than predicted.

Just consider the following:

In 1989 – that’s 31 years ago – NJ Gov. Tom Kean issued Executive Order #219 – while I am not certain, I assume that the “scientific consensus” Gov. Kean referred to was based on Jim Hansen’s 1988 Congressional  testimony, as well as the science on CFC’s and depletion of the ozone layer:

WHEREAS, A scientific consensus exists that emissions of certain gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (hereinafter “CFCs”), and halons are causing significant changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere

WHEREAS, A scientific consensus also exists that these emissions are likely to cause significant changes in the Earth’s climate, including overall warming, increased drought, an increase in the intensity of hurricanes and other major storms, as well as increased incidence of harmful ultraviolet radiation; and

Remarkably, that Kean Executive Order goes far beyond current policy and regulation in at least 3 critically important ways:

1. Science based public eduction was emphasized and provided resources, not run away from and defunded – the obvious assumption being that an educated public would support strong climate initiatives:

All State entities shall review their programs designed to facilitate public awareness of environmental issues and revise such programs to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, the effective communication of information that will enhance the public’s understanding of the basic processes involved in global climate change, the causes of such change, and possible approaches to reducing and adapting to such change.

Thirty years later, a recent Rutgers – Eagleton poll found that the public still does not understand the fundamentals of global warming and climate catastrophe, never mind the causes and approaches to reducing GHG emissions and adapting to climate change.

Contrast that public ignorance on climate change with the huge investments Kean & subsequent NJ Gov.’s made in educating the public on recycling, a campaign that led to strong public knowledge and support for the recycling program and high participation rates (and while there are significant differences in how the two programs impact corporate profits, there are no recycling deniers).

2. State agencies were directed to develop regulatory responses – including land use restrictions – to respond to sea level rise:

All State entities with responsibility for policies or regulations affecting the location, construction or maintenance of public or private facilities (including residential developments) shall:

a. Ascertain the degree to which those facilities will be affected by predicted changes in sea level; and

b. Develop policies, in consultation with the general public and other governmental entities, to respond to such predicted changes in sea level.

While it was on the Table 31 years ago, DEP land use regulation to reduce climate risks is a taboo topic today.

Lack of effective regulation is one of the main reasons why NJ is the third worst states in the country for filing repeat claims in the federal flood insurance program and why Sandy caused so much damage.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Source: Wall Street Journal

Current DEP CAFRA (coastal development), Flood Hazard (stream encroachment), wetlands and water quality land use AND infrastructure regulations are not based upon and do not even mention climate change, nor do the Pinelands, and the Highlands, and the Hackensack Meadowlands regional plans and regulations.

Although Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe claims to be working on something, NJ still does not have a climate adaptation plan.

Just think of how much development has occurred in hazardous areas over the last 30 years. How much of that was wiped out by Sandy and other major floods since 1989?

Just think about many homes lost, lives lost, and billions of dollars spent would have been prevented had  DEP developed regulatory controls under CAFRA and the Flood Hazard Act to address flooding and sea level rise associated with climate change back in 1989.

But instead of strict regulation, just last year, the Murphy DEP weakened coastal & flooding protections.

3. Kean put DEP regulatory controls on energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions on the table:

State entities shall foster energy conservation to the maximum extent practicable, in order to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global climate change.

a. All State entities with responsibility for constructing, purchasing, leasing, operating or maintaining capital facilities and equipment shall employ state-of-the-art equipment for efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting, and in other major energy using applications, where such equipment or techniques will result in lower costs over the lifetime of the equipment.

b. All State entities exercising regulatory authority over actions that directly or indirectly relate to the production or consumption of energy shall review their policies and regulatory practices to ensure that they provide maximum incentives designed to conserve energy and increase reliance upon sources of energy that contribute fewer emissions of those gases responsible for global climate change.

Today, DEP regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is virtually unthinkable – not even on the table.

But just think how much lower NJ’s greenhouse gas emissions would have been had DEP adopted regulatory mandates to require energy efficiency, renewable energy and limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Or how many electric vehicles and charging stations there would be if DEP mandated them back in 1989.

Instead, the BPU has assumed virtually complete control of climate and energy policy.

DEP does not consider climate impacts in there various regulatory reviews, policies and plans and DEP’s various permit regulations do not consider climate change at all:

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.

Thirty years after Gov. Kean’s Executive Order, DEP regulatory controls are not even on the table.

Worse, instead, energy generation has been deregulated.

Right now, DEP relies on voluntary individual consumer choices, market forces, and marginal, small bore and ineffective market based efforts like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). For details, see:

Nationally, we simply failed to aggressively respond to the climate crisis over the last 30 years, as the NY Times story documents.

It’s worse in NJ – where we have gone backwards.


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