Home > Uncategorized > The Murphy DEP Perpetuates The Christie DEP’s Abdication And Climate Denial

The Murphy DEP Perpetuates The Christie DEP’s Abdication And Climate Denial

Commissioner LaTourette’s “imagination” can’t somehow embrace enforcement of DEP’s regulatory responsibilities

DEP abdicates State responsibility by delegation to local government

As Towns Refuse To Act, DEP message to towns: Shit Happens!

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, we explained the dynamic, an analysis that was rejected by the Christie DEP and ignored by NJ media, see:

Almost 9 years later, nothing has changed. The Murphy Administration rhetoric recognizes the science of climate emergency, but the lack of action is effectively climate denial.

NJ Spotlight today ran another puff piece and highly misleading story based only on an interview with DEP Commissioner LaTourette.

There’s really no excuse for Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle doing this again, because just last week I sent him the FEMA climate adaptation proposal, which responded to a very detailed regulatory petition by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the State Association of Floodplain Managers.

That NRDC rule petition included specific scientific recommendations and identified huge regulatory gaps, including NJ specific recommendations based on Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in NJ.

The FEMA proposal has huge national implications and has gotten national press coverage – I sent Hurdle The Washington Post story on that too. I wrote:

Jon – FEMA just announced, in response to a petition for ruelmaking, that they are seeking public comment on stricter standards to address climate risks. Here’s the Federal Register Notice:


The Biden White House issued a FACT SHEET statement about broader reforms that sound almost exactly what DEP Commissioner LaTourette has said about information disclosure of risks – basically a buyer beware voluntary market based approach


The Washington Post covered it yesterday


Since the FEMA regulations are national in scope, it would apply to NJ. FEMA’s response to the petition for rulemaking also contrasts with NJ DEP’s failure to act on a related climate petition for rulemaking (a huge story that still has gotten no press).

Here’s a relevant NJ issue: Source is from a well written NRDC petition for rulemaking to FEMA:

“Mitigation Assessment Team Report, FEMA P-942, Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York: Building Performance Observations, Recommendations, and Technical Guidance” (2013)

  • FEMA’s Mitigation Assessment Team recommended that new structures and structures undergoing Substantial Improvement or that have sustained Substantial Damage be elevated at least 2 feet above the height of the 100-year flood. For critical facilities, such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and emergency communication centers, the  Team recommended they be elevated above the height of the 500-year flood


Why not use Biden/FEMA announcement to write about lack of a 500 year flood height standard in NJ and DEP failure to act in response to climate petition?


But instead of reporting on any of that, incredibly Spotlight gave DEP Commissioner LaTourette a platform to spout drivel about “re-imagining” DEP’s responsibilities and “encouraging” developers:

“The program needs to be reimagined,” he said in an interview with NJ Spotlight News last week. ….

“The policy question is how you build that network together; how you encourage folks to invest in stormwater management to the degree that they don’t now; how you encourage developers to take a longer view,” he said.

It doesn’t take any “imagination” to read the applicable NJ laws, the powers these laws delegate to DEP, and DEP’s flawed and failed regulations – LaTourette is a former corporate lawyer who represented developers, so he is fully aware of these laws and regulatory flaws.

But LaTourette can’t seem to imagine “adaptation” and “resilience” to include things like eliminating the “right to rebuild” under NJ Flood Hazard Area Control Act and NJ Coastal law (CAFRA) – or ratchet down on DEP State regulations, as recommended in the NRDC petition to FEMA.

And obviously, it is not DEP’s role to “encourage” developers – it is DEP’s job to regulate them to protect the public interest and the environment.

The one positive aspect of the story is that Hurdle exposed the total failure of DEP’s strategy and local delegation abdication:

But LaTourette said he was unaware that any town has yet conducted a climate-vulnerability assessment. Similarly, none has yet created a stormwater utility following passage of a law in 2019 enabling them to do so or adopted a new DEP “toolkit” to help them integrate climate change into land-use policy.

He warned that towns are leaving themselves more vulnerable to the next monster storm than they would be if they took advantage of the help that’s available.

“If the expectation is that the Army Corps is going to step in, or the DEP is going to step in, folks will continue to be surprised by the Idas,” he said. “We have to promote coordinated governance, and that’s part of our climate-resilience strategy.”

Get that?

DEP’s entire climate adaptation (“resilience”) strategy is based on local government action, instead of enforcement of DEP’s regulatory role.

Yet not one local government has done anything!

Instead of recognizing the failure of his strategy and taking concrete steps to fix it, LaTourette doubles down and essentially threatens that “folks will continue to be surprised”.

Maybe he just should have said “Shit happens”.

Not since Gerald Ford told NY City to “drop dead” can I recall a more irresponsible public statement and policy position.

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