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Murphy DEP Blasted For Failure To Take Action In Wake Of Massive Repeat Deadly Flooding

Swan Creek Redux

Lambertville, NJ. Along Swan Creek flooding (8/28/11) Irene

Lambertville, NJ. Along Swan Creek – Irene flooding (8/28/11) (Bill Wolfe)

Long time investigative journalist and columnist Bob Hennelly has a good piece today at Insider NJ, read the whole thing:

While he nailed the big picture story, I think he got a few important things not quite right and left some important things out, so I sent him this note:

Bob – good piece – a few comments:

1. You included this quote, which comes from a cheerleader, not a competent and objective regulatory analyst:

It sure was monumental because it directed the NJ DEP to address all of the impacts of the climate crisis not just in the environment but the broader economy and since the NJ DEP has done their job, yet the Governor hasn’t followed up on his end”

What? This is factually false. DEP has NOT done their job. Was there a typo that left out “not”?

In addition to failure to propose new climate adaptation regulations (and it’s not just flood hazard, but stormwater, wetlands, CAFRA, WQMP, NJPDES, SDWA (infrastructure regulations), Highlands, Pinelands, forestry, chemical safety (RTK and TCPA), solid and hazardous waste management, toxic site cleanup, well construction, and septic design regulations), there are several Christie DEP regulatory rollbacks that remain in place, while LaTourette re-adopted those Christie rules without change to prevent their expiration – take a look at them all:


On top of that, DEP has done very little on reducing GHG emissions. Their single CO2 emissions rule proposal – not yet adopted, 6 years into the Murphy Administration – is extremely weak (weaker than Obama’s Clean Power Plan). And RGGI allows for increases in emissions because of the cap, banking, credit generation, and other flaws.

Why do enviro’s continue to provide cover for this DEP Commissioner?

Identity politics has a lot to do with it.

Let me know if you want backup – see this for some links and watch the Sandy documentary! It also included former DEP Commissioner Mauriello and Princeton scientist (I got more air time than both!)

Years Of Talking Dangerously


2. The emergency rule proposal idea is legally flawed and guaranteed to be rejected by NJ Courts.  If not Courts, then the Legislature will strike it down as “inconsistent with legislative intent”.

Exactly one day before the Builders et al wrote Gov. Murphy that letter, On June 2, I laid out the critique of why “emergency rulemaking” was legally flawed. I followed that June 2 post up with a July appeal to Enviro’s see


Emergency rulemaking was LaTourette’s idea and – best case – probably was a way to mitigate the harm from his own delay in adopting regulations and rubber stamping permits for thousands of units/millions of square feet of new developments in hazardous flood locations.

Worst case, it was a cynical ploy to create the appearance of doing something and then blaming the Builders when it failed in Court.

La Tourette is now blaming the Gov. Office for putting the brakes on his terrible emergency rule idea. The Builders letter obviously prompted a rigorous legal review.

3. The enviro’s are not even asking for the 2 most important policy elements in any climate adaptation plan:

a) strategic retreat – this will require DEP planning and mandates not only on prohibitions on new development, but on buyouts from destroyed property, a move away from the exclusively reliance on voluntary willing sellers.

Senator Smith was quoted recently in NJ Spotlight saying that the regulatory mandate approach to new development restrictions would constitute an unconstitutional “regulatory taking”. Smith is as far right ideologically on land use as the radical western wise use movement people. (Smith only sponsored the Highlands Act because Gov. McGreevey told him to, and so he could control the amendments that significantly weakened the introduced version of the bill. I know this first hand. I was in the room and represented DEP as part of the small OLS team that drafted the bill.)

b) repeal right to rebuild – NJ might be the only coastal state with a “right to rebuild” storm damaged property.

NJ CAFRA and Flood Hazard Acts both have “right to rebuild” provisions. There was a Senate bill to repeal them back in 2014 but it died, see:

This is one reason why NJ is a national “leader” in FEMA repeat storm damage claims. The federal bailout gravy train is not sustainable.

Let me know if you want links to support all this.


End Note:

How oblivious must Gov. Murphy and his stafff be? Did he not realize how cruelly ironic a press event on flooding at Swan Creek in Lambertville is? (See above photo I took 11 years ago in wake of Irene flooding there.)

Is he not even aware of this history? Of the failure of previous Gov.’s “Flood Task Forces” and DEP?

His administration is clueless and only adept at press releases.

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