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Gov. Signs Sandy Spending Bill that Doesn't Mention Sea Level Rise

Date : Wed, Aug 7, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Level Rise To:

For Immediate Release

August 7, 2013

Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Gov. Signs Sandy Spending Bill that Doesn't Mention Sea Level Rise

Today the Governor signed legislation to fund the Environmental Infrastructure Trust for clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects around the state. A4184 (Ramos), increases the debt ceiling of the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to $5 billion for the Disaster Relief Emergency Financing Program(DREFP). DREFP would deal with wastewater treatment systems and water supply projects. The New Jersey Sierra Club opposes this legislation because it does include adaption planning and mitigation for climate change, sea level rise, and storm surges. This legislation also does not come up with a plan for adaption or mitigation for these facilities to protect themselves from storm surges or sea level rise. There are no guidelines for improvements like raising or guarding the facilities from floods.

"Even though we have just been devastated by Hurricane Sandy and are trying to rebuild, this legislation does not even mention climate change adaptation or preparing for sea level rise or storm surges. We are concerned that this money is just going to go out to sea in the next storm," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

This law gives way too much power and discretion to the DEP Commissioner. It is vague without any clear standards or guidelines. It uses the term
"weather activity", which is vague and could mean a shower at a picnic. There is nothing being tied to green infrastructure like renewable energy or the restoration of natural systems like wetlands. The Christie Administration has waived environmental regulations and allows rebuilding in high hazard areas in the same place that was just destroyed. The law says as language that these facilities should be more "resilient" however that has no meaning since there is not clear meaning or standards.

 "This law gives too much discretion to the DEP Commissioner. Just having the word resiliency in the law is not going to protect us from the next storm. New Jersey needs real plans and programs in place to deal with sea level rise and climate change," said Jeff Tittel.

New Jersey still needs to spend $2.7 billion just to fix the damage from Sandy. Overall we need around $46 billion to fix our infrastructure including upgrading water and sewage treatment and combined sewer overflow. We believe this is the first step, but New Jersey needs to do more to help protect water and sewer infrastructure from sea level rise and climate change. The Passaic Valley and Middlesex County sewage plants were spewing millions of gallons of untreated sewage into our waterways after Sandy due to flooding and pumps losing power. It is vitally important we protect this infrastructure however the Governor raiding the Clean Energy Fund and taking steps to reverse our state's leadership on addressing climate change will only make the next storm worse.

"20% of our sewer plants failed during the storm, putting billions of gallons of raw sewage into water ways. We also have a problem with combined sewer overflows and we need about $8 billion to fix the problem in the state. This funding is coming at an important time to help us fix some of our problems. Not only does New Jersey not have a plan for climate change or adaption, but there is no long term plan for more funding to fix our vulnerable infrastructure," said Tittel.

Governor Christie eliminated the Office of Climate Change within in our DEP and has undone efforts under previous administrations to implement hazard planning. The areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy are the areas we have said for a long time are most vulnerable for flooding and storm surges and they have done nothing to increase protections in those areas and are making it worse. We are concerned that New Jersey's policies on climate could cost our state federal funding, not just for future disaster relief but things such as road building and infrastructure.

"The lesson from Sandy is where we protected the environment and had natural systems in place they did better than those that didn't. Also where we overdeveloped we saw devastating impacts from Sandy. We also need to tie this tie fixing our infrastructure to energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as green building including blue and green roofs to reduce flooding. As we continue to understand the devastation and impacts of Hurricane Sandy we are going to need to change things in New Jersey. If you deny climate change and think it is esoteric and refuse to believe there is a link between Sandy and climate disruption then you are never going to fix the problem. Instead we will waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money ," said Jeff.

New Jersey is failing to do buyouts along the coast, regional planning, adaption for seal level rise and mitigation. Following the Hurricane, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin signed an Administrative Consent Order waiving compliance with CAFRA, Flood Hazard Area, and wetlands protections for infrastructure rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Under the ACO infrastructure will be rebuilt in the same vulnerable areas that were just destroyed. The ACO waives environmental standards while discouraging better planning. The Governor issued an Emergency Order adopting FEMA advisory base flood maps, but these maps do not include the latest data from Hurricane Sandy or sea level rise and only apply to coastal areas, not inland.

"In addition to funding we need our leaders to come up with better polices to address the impacts of flooding and climate change on our coast and flood prone areas. We need to limit development in flood prone areas, moving people out of harm's way and developing real comprehensive programs to reduce greenhouse gases and protect us from climate change and sea level rise," said Jeff Tittel.

Jeff continued, "We need to this money to protect our infrastructure from flooding and storm surges, but it is going to take a lot more money to restore New Jersey. Unless we plan and adapt for climate change we will not only be wasting this $5 billion, but we will be putting more people, property, and infrastructure in harm's way.

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Received on 2013-08-07 12:13:00

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