LETTER Christie’s New Jersey Record: A record of shame

The New Jersey Sierra Club believes Governor Christie is ill-fitted for President based on his record in New Jersey. After five years in office, he has dismantled key environmental protections and made our state more vulnerable to climate change impacts. Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:

 

“We had to deal with him for the past five years and we know his record well. What Governor Christie has done to New Jersey, he will do to the country, which is mess it up. He has the worst environmental record of any Governor in state history. From his first day in office, he went after 40 years of environmental protections and rolled back environmental programs and weakened health and safety standards. He has taken the side of polluters over environmental protections. He has been a climate change denier, pulled us out of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative illegally, and failed to take sea level rise into consideration to protect us from future storms. Christie pulled out of RGGI, because he was concerned he’d be regulated as the largest source of hot air in New Jersey. He has taken over a billion dollars from the clean energy fund. He has refused to act on climate change and vetoed important protections against fracking. As President, he would do the same nationally, siding with corporate polluters and the mining and gas industries, blocking and rolling back protections on climate change, allowing special interests to write environmental regulations. He has sacrificed New Jersey’s environment to his own political ambitions. The groups gathered today send a clear message to other states: Christie’s policies have hurt New Jersey and as President we can expect more of the same or worse.”

 

“From his first day in office, he signed an Executive Order saying New Jersey cannot have any protections stronger than the federal government and then started to dismantle environmental protections. That Executive Order came directly from ALEC and the Koch Brothers. There were some who thought he was a moderate. However, he never was. He has had a clear anti-environmental agenda from day one and the only science he cares about is political science.”

 

“With Christie’s announcement for the Presidential bid, what you see is someone who has attacked environmental protections since his first day in office. You have to look at his record in New Jersey to see that he has been the worst Governor for environmental protections in state history. He is like the Sarah Palin of this year’s election cycle. He is only concerned about himself, the media, and playing up his celebrity status. He should do what Sarah Palin did and resign from office.”

 

“His attacks on clean air, water, public health and safety, here show that he would be a terrible President for environmental issues. Christie has destroyed New Jersey’s environment to support his national political ambitions. He has tried to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from environmental settlements, and settled for pennies on the dollar for them, including giving a sweetheart deal to Exxon. Not one new NRD lawsuit was filed directly by the state in his term. He has taken money from the fracking industry and saying it is OK for them to dump on New Jersey. Christie is trying to turn New Jersey from the crossroads of the revolution to the crossroads of pipelines. He has blocked attempts for offshore wind while, wanting ratepayers to subsidize thousands of dollars for gas-fire power plants. He has bullied people to push through a pipeline through the middle of the Pinelands, while four former Governors have opposed it. This pipeline would benefit a power plant represented by Wolfe and Sampson and a member of his staff was found guilty of ethics violations. We were second in solar installations when Christie rook office and now we are 8th. New Jersey moved from 8th to 22nd in energy efficiency.  Christie has blocked stricter standards for drinking water for five years, ignored laws on water pollution, and stripped away important protections for drinking water, while opening up environmentally sensitive areas in the Highlands and Pinelands. He has weakened protections in coastal areas and rolled back rules on flood control putting more people and property in harm’s way. Christie has done more damage to our environment than Hurricane Sandy.”

 

“Christie is in lock step with the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and the Koch brother corporate polluter agenda.  While he cuts funding for environmental programs, he provides corporate subsides, builds an unnecessary $800 million American Dream mall, and spends $40 million for one company to move four blocks. He has given more than 5 billion inn corporate subsidies by cutting environmental programs by 1/3. He has been spending more time out of state than in state and doesn’t believe in governance, only media coverage for himself while he is a disaster for New Jersey’s health and environment. The only thing green about Christie is the money he gets from corporate polluters.”

 

“In March, Christie visited Iowa and boasted about his environmental rollbacks in New Jersey. The Governor said that ‘the person who started the EPA’s overreach was Lisa Jackson, who came from New Jersey,….and I have spent the last five years dismantling her overreach in the area of environmental protection.’ What Governor Christie calls an overreach were programs and policies to help protect New Jersey from flooding and climate change impacts, the same things that caused such devastation with Hurricanes Sandy and Irene where people lost lives and property. Instead of learning the lessons from Hurricane Sandy we have a Governor who is actually going to make our state more vulnerable to the next storm,” said Jeff Tittel. “Christie cares more about what happens in Iowa than of New Jersey. If he becomes President, he will only care about himself. His environmental record was worse than Bridgegate; Bridgegate was about retribution and revenge. His environmental record has rolled back environmental protections and put people and properties at risk. His record is a bigger scandal than Bridgegate. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen’s song: Christie’s ‘Wrong For the USA.’ ”

 

EXXON SETTLEMENT

 

The Christie Administration is proposing to settle with Exxon for billions of dollars less than the state of New Jersey originally requested.  Damages from the company’s operations at the Bayway and Bayonne facilities were estimated at $8.9 billion, and DEP is now proposing a $225 million settlement deal.  The settlement now includes 16 additional sites and over 800 gas stations around New Jersey.

 

Up to $175 million of the settlement money could be used to close budget holes, instead of going to environmental remediation or the impacted communities. The administration used this same gimmick in the current budget-   $190 million was taken from the Passaic River settlement to close budget holes.

 

Under the original order, Exxon would have had to restore the site which is more than a clean-up or remediation. Exxon would have to remove all the oil and chemicals then restore the wetlands to the state they were in before the spill. Now Exxon can just cap the site, which is not really a clean-up. This would leave tons of oil and chemicals in the ground, saving Exxon millions of dollars. That would mean that the sites would still be contaminated with potential of oil leaking into the groundwater. Governor Christie said it this was “a good deal,” decided by the Attorney General and as per state standards there is no cap on what Exxon has to pay.

 

“This is a complete sellout to the people of New Jersey and the communities affected by pollution at these sites. The Christie Administration has tried to justify the unjustifiable. This case not only hurts the environment, but it rips off the taxpayers of New Jersey. The Administration has settled this case fast to be able to use this money to help balance the general fund. This is outrageous abuse of power by the administration selling out the environment and the tax payers of New Jersey. This is a case that New Jersey was going to win, but instead they settled this case for pennies on the dollar. Instead of going to court and getting $9 billion the tax payers of New Jersey are only going to get $225 million. This is a complete giveaway to corporate polluters. The administration had no reason to settle, other than balancing the budget and giving away the store to Exxon at the expense of New Jersey’s environment,” said Jeff Tittel.

 

ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE

 

The Governor has moved New Jersey in the wrong direction on clean energy and green job creation.  New Jersey was on track to meet aggressive clean energy goals outlined under previous administrations, but Christie’s policies have cost the state green jobs and economic stability, critical pollution reductions, and energy independence.   His administration’s actions have jeopardized funding for renewable energy projects for homeowners and small businesses.

 

“Governor Christie has become a climate denier, calling climate change esoteric, and has risked the environment, funding, and the people of New Jersey for his political ambition.  Governor Christie’s policies have prevented the state from meeting future pollution reduction goals.  The progress we have made in achieving 2020 targets was the result of the work of previous governors on renewable energy and climate- and Christie has ended or pulled back from many of those programs. The reductions are also a result of the economic downturn from which New Jersey has not recovered like other states,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

  • He rolled back the revised Energy Master Plan (EMP) to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy (30% to 22.5%) goals for New Jersey. Instead it calls for more fossil fuels and supports expanding natural gas infrastructure that supports fracking.
  • The administration significantly subsidized gas fire power plants, while rolling back goals for solar and wind.
  • He removed New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), costing our state $1.25 million in revenue and more than 1,800 jobs.

“By pulling out of RGGI the Governor has created a polluters’ holiday, allowing polluting power plants to not pay for their fair share.  By returning to RGGI polluters like the Hess plant would pay $5 million into clean energy programs a year. Because we are not participating in RGGI New Jersey is losing out on critical funding for clean energy programs.  Since we are not in RGGI, the Hess plant will save at least $5 million a year and that money could be going to help people in Newark to weatherize their homes,”said Tittel.

  • DEP closed the Office of Climate Change
  • Ignored the Global Warming Response Act, which requires New Jersey to reduce emissions from different sources
  • Opposed the EPA’s climate rules, which would provide state funding for reducing GHG emissions
  • Raided more than $1 billion from the Clean Energy Fund
  • Almost crashed the state’s solar market:  New Jersey was second in the nation in solar and we are now seventh. We had 10,000 jobs in solar and we now have only 5,500.
  • His administration has extended agreements to allow the polluting BL England coal and oil-fired generating station to continue operating for another 2 years.
  • He has increased NJ Transit fares and the agency has made service cuts to public transportation, increasing the demand for fossil fuels.

Almost 3 years after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey continues to recover from the story.  The response of the Christie administration has been botched and is delaying recovery efforts.  His policies make our state more vulnerable to the next storm.  He has denied climate change, rolled back important protections against flooding and sea level rise, and eliminated programs to reduce greenhouse gases. The DCA continues to fail to update its standards to meet federal requirements: addressing climate change, adopting more efficient building codes and implementing green infrastructure.  Additionally, the state has already mismanaged and delayed funding to numerous homeowners.

 

“Instead of learning from the lessons of Sandy, the Christie administration has perpetuated failed policies of the past, and in some cases made things worse.  Instead of rebuilding our state in a more resilient way, they are instead putting more people at risk and wasting important federal funding. When you deny climate change, you deny the increased frequency of storm surges and sea level rise.” said Jeff Tittel. “The failure to mention climate change or have an adaptation and mitigation plan for future impacts violates the HUD requirements and we could lose federal funding. The Administration has not adopted the new FEMA flood maps, updated building codes, nor started to implement adaptation and hazard planning as part of their resiliency model. This has all let the state become more vulnerable to future super-storms like Sandy.”

  • DEP adopted Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) rules, which allow for development without consideration of sea level rise or climate change and put more people to in harm’s way.
  • Announced a $202 million levee and floodwall project to prevent storm water surges in Union Beach. The floodwall and levee will cause a false sense of security and more flooding
  • Opposes efforts to establish a Coastal Commission
  • Refused to implement the state’s Offshore Wind Economic Development Act and has essentially stopped the Fisherman’s Energy project.  The BPU has failed to develop regulations to establish the OREC program. Offshore wind projects could provide 1/3 of our energy needs and provide 3,000 megawatts worth of energy by 2020

“At one point, New Jersey was poised to be the first state in the nation with offshore wind and now we can’t even get a small pilot project approved like Fisherman’s Energy. What is worst is that the Administration has prevented us from going forward with the cleanest, most reasonably priced, and reliable form of electric generation. New Jersey, after being devastated by climate change, needs to move forward on clean energy to protect our coast and the environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of The New Jersey Sierra Club. 

 

WATER & LAND USE

Just this month Gov. Christie continued his weakening of water protections with the release of a major overhaul of the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules, Coastal Zone Management Rules, and Stormwater Management Rules.  This is the latest in a series of policies that have opened up areas sensitive areas to development and undermined drinking water protections.

  • The Governor has a clear record to be pro-fracking by vetoing legislation to ban the disposal and discharge of fracking waste in NJ.

“When Christie vetoed the bill banning fracking waste, he basically said to polluters come dump on New Jersey. With the veto, the Governor sided with the big polluters and gas companies against protecting New Jersey’s waterways from this toxic waste. That veto was a message from Christie to New Jersey: ‘Go frack yourself.’ He also wanted to uplift the moratorium of fracking on the Delaware River. Fracking waste is a witches brew of over 700 different chemicals including some radioactive. It showed he is more concerned about his national politics than he is about New Jersey’s clean water. We have enough pollution in New Jersey we do not need fracking waste to be dumped here. We do not need out of state waste haulers dumping in New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel.

 

  • He also has been the largest proponent of the South Jersey Gas pipeline that would cut a scar through the Pinelands.
  • Signed the Water Infrastructure Protection Act authorizing municipal, county, and regional utilities to sell or lease their water to a private company  Privatization is one of the single biggest threats to clean water and public health.

“Christie sided with private water companies in February over our water supply when he signed the Water Infrastructure Protection Act. This law will raise rates, hurt consumers and businesses. Residents will not be able to decide the fate of their water supply unless the petition to sell or lease is signed by 15% of voters in the area. This is undemocratic, takes away public oversight and input, and allows deregulation of our water protection and rates. Governor Christie has now allowed for private water companies to reap massive amount of profit at the expense of residents and their water supply,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

  • The DEP Waiver rule would allow the Commissioner to waive compliance with over 120 agency programs.
  • Delayed work by the Drinking Water Quality Institute and DEP to adopt new standards on the known carcinogen PFOA, perchlorate, PFNA, PFC, chromium and arsenic, putting people and public health at risk.

“When the Governor first came into office he froze all rules and standards, including those recommended by the Institute. Rules such as the Flood Hazard Rules and Water Quality Planning Rules were upheld in court.  The only overreach is Governor Christie’s anti-environmental agenda where he is more concerned about taking care of corporate polluters and developers than he is about protecting New Jersey’s environment,” said Jeff Tittel. “The purpose of the rules was to try to encourage development in urban areas and where there was existing sewers and tried to discourage development in environmentally sensitive and flood prone areas.”

  • The DEP has been holding “stakeholder” meetings where important environmental regulations are being rewritten by special interests.  DEP’s stormwater management, water quality management planning (WQMP), category one, stream buffers, flood hazard areas, and Highlands regulations have been targeted at these meetings.
  • New Flood Hazard Rules proposed by the Administration are a hazard for New Jersey. The changes include removing important protects for headwaters, increasing permit by rules, and letting a permit by certification process increase development in flood-prone areas. They will remove critical headwater protections and allow for increased drilling and power-lines in these areas. These changes are essentially loosened water and habitat protections and will be detrimental to New Jersey.

“Christie has put the people of New Jersey at risk for more flooding with the new flood hazard rules. This administration has rolled back 20 years of work on protecting people from flooding. Not only will these rules mean increased flooding but they will also destroy and hurt water quality in many of our important streams and rivers. These new rules violate both the New Jersey and the federal Clean Water Act as well as the recent Waters of the United States Rule,” said Tittel. 

  • The administration pushed for delays for the implementation the WQMP rules and is now using the extra time to rewrite the rules. Christie signed legislation that gutted many of the key protections in the rules.
  • New Jersey is close to last in the nation in addressing CSO problems, according to the EPA.  This increases water treatment costs and undermines urban revitalization.
  • Christie has opposed efforts to improve the health of the Barnegat Bay.  The DEP has refused to designate portions of the Bay as impaired.  He vetoed legislation that would have put in place a TMDL plan to clean up the Bay and opposed legislation that would improve stormwater management systems.  He allowed Oyster Creek to continue to operate without cooling towers.
  • The Governor continues to attack the Highlands region, which provides drinking water to 5.4 million people, over half of New Jersey’s residents, and our major economic industries.  His appointments to the board fired the Executive Director and replaced her with one of the Governor’s political cronies.  His appointments have delayed the adoption of Highlands protections by local municipalities.
  • In the Pinelands, the Governor replaced Commission members who voted against the South Jersey Gas pipeline.  The DEP has entered into an MOA with the DEP designating sensitive areas of the Pinelands as growth areas and allowing more sewer service and package plants.  This means more development.
  • The State Plan has been gutted by the administration and calls for growth in sensitive areas
  • Christie was the first Governor in recent history without a plan to fund open space purchases.  He opposed efforts by legislators to put funding mechanisms in place.
  • Supports diversion of public lands for use in fossil fuel infrastructure projects
  • DEP has not released new water discharge permits for Mercer, Salem, BL England, or Oyster Creek that require cooling towers, allowing them to continue discharging thermal pollution and killing millions of fish and aquatic organisms a year.

 

OTHER ROLLBACKS

  • Vetoed legislation banning smoking on public beaches
  • Cut women’s healthcare funding
  • Vetoed legislation banning pig gestation crates
  • Proposed to expand the bear hunt, which are unwarranted, unfounded, and will not help to manage bears in the state of New Jersey.
  •  Not allowing important Leg Hold Traps

“Whenever we get the legislature to pass a pro-environmental bill, he vetoes it. When the legislature passes a bad environmental bill, he can’t sign it fast enough. Christie has supported fossil fuels and weakening of environmental protections, over the interests of the people of New Jersey. Again and again, Christie has sacrificed clean water, our public health, and our environment, putting more people at risk from pollution and future climate change impacts. His focus on his national political ambitions over the people of New Jersey has been shameful,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “He has been a disaster for New Jersey and will be a disaster for the United States.”