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One Year After Sandy Changes Still Needed

Date : Mon, 21 Oct 2013 16:34:56 -0400

For Immediate Release

October 21, 2013

Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

One Year After Sandy Changes Still Needed

The Senate and Assembly Environment Committees will hold a joint hearing today to hear testimony on the status of rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy.One year after the storm New Jersey has not taken action to address climate change, adapt to future sea level rise, or implement policies to better protect families and infrastructure from future storms.We need the Legislature to take action now to make New Jersey more resilient to the future challenges that will result from climate change.

"One year after Sandy we have not made the kind of changes that are needed.We have left the state more vulnerable to the next storm.Instead of smarter and better, it has been denial and rationalize of the status quo," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club."We have not been doing adaptation planning for sea level rise, incorporating energy efficiency and green building codes, funding for buyouts, or restoring natural systems.The efforts to rebuild the coast have become broken promises, delays, and inaction."

More Action To Address Climate Change

There is no planning involved for infrastructure or rebuilding.We need to set up programs and mapping to deal with sea level rise, climate change, and adaptation and mitigation for those impacts.We should be looking at elevating, hardening or moving vital infrastructure to help protect it and tie it to fixing other problems like combined sewer overflows and renewable energy and green infrastructure.We need legislation that would require state agencies to mandate mitigation and adaption planning for sea level rise.

New Jersey needs to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce carbon pollution in our state and the region.The Governor pulled us out of the compact and vetoed legislation passed by both houses to restore our participation.RGGI is an agreement signed by the ten northeast states to cut carbon emissions from electrical generation power plants.A report by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners found that New Jersey's participation in RGGI created $151 million in economic value and 1,772 jobs in our state.While participating in RGGI, NJ reduced its greenhouse gas usage by 10%.The Legislature should constitutionally dedicate New Jersey's participation in RGGI or other such climate compacts.

"Sandy was a wake call that shows climate change is real.The state of New Jersey has failed to lead when it comes to the climate change.The Governor has called the problem 'esoteric' and refused to address it.Unless we take action to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt and mitigate to climate change, we will waste money rebuilding while continuing to put people and property in harm's way," said Jeff Tittel.

Policies to Make Our Coast More Resilient Being Ignored

New Jersey has not required the latest building codes in the wake of Sandy.To date the Governor's administration has refused to adopt the latest codes and a letter from the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding addressing the subject simply notes that "New Jersey adopted the 2009 version of the model building code."The codes New Jersey is using are about 15% less efficient than current codes and new standards are being drafted this fall.We need legislation requiring the DCA to minimally require the adoption of the 2012 International IECC codes and the ICC Green Building Standards.And legislation requiring DCA to require all buildings meet Energy Star tier three New Jersey Climate Choice Standards.

More effort needs to be made to coordinate efforts between municipalities and government agencies on rebuilding shared infrastructure.As we rebuild, it is an opportune time for municipalities to look at consolidating services and key infrastructure and to do regional planning around key infrastructure such as sewer lines.

There is no planning for pulling back from environmentally sensitive areas.More planning for restoring natural systems and adding dunes along our coast should be undertaken. There has been no comprehensive plan for buyouts in our coastal areas and no programs for funding for buyouts.The Governor has yet to outline plans for funding open space purchases.The Army Corps of engineers are not requiring dunes north of Manasquan.Dunes do not prevent flooding, especially on the Bay side and there is no plan in place to protect those areas.

"The most important question is: Are we stronger than the next storm?Almost a year after Sandy, New Jersey has not learned the mistakes of the past or changed the status quo.We seem to be doing some of the same mistakes over again when it comes to rebuilding our coast and protecting our state from floods and storms," said Jeff Tittel.

The FEMA maps being used for rebuilding do not contain the latest flood information from Hurricane Sandy and do not include sea level rise or storm surges. Rushing to rebuild before the science and planning is in place puts people, infrastructure, and investments at risk.New Jersey's Flood Hazard Area rules allow for building one foot above the 100 year flood line where FEMA recommends 2 feet above free board.We recommend implementing the FEMA standard since it is more protective and will help address potential mistakes in mapping. FEMA fell to political pressure and removed areas damaged by Sandy from v zones.

Earlier this year DEP adopted changes to the coastal regulations but the rule proposal did not fix the CAFRA mapping or reflect the environmentally sensitive features on the ground or new flood maps.This will still allow for sewers and overdevelopment in environmentally sensitive and high hazard areas.

The Legislature has ignored two critical bills for better protecting our coast. A3921 (Barnes) would close major loopholes in the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) by redefining developments that need permits to stop inappropriate coastal development.A Coastal Commission as proposed in A3920 (Barnes) would be the best way to implement many of the policies needed to rebuild the coast better and stronger.This bill is crucial to make the rebuilding process more transparent and open to the public and incorporate more regional planning.

Governor Christie's Policies Make NJ More Vulnerable

Instead of implementing adaptation and mitigation planning and reducing carbon pollution, the Governor is rolling back policies that reduce climate change pollution and promote clean energy alternatives.Governor Christie has diverted almost $900 million from different clean energy funding and his revised Energy Master Plan reduces our renewable energy goals from 30% to 22.5% in favor of more fossil fuels, contributing to climate change pollution.

Since the Governor has pulled out of RGGI there have been consequences.There has been a drop in prices in the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market, almost causing a crash.We went from first in the nation in installed solar to third and are heading to fourth.Legislation was needed to save the solar market.

We were eighth in the nation in energy efficiency and are now sixteenth.

Governor Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act
(OWEDA), but he has done nothing since to ensure we have wind turbines off our coast.Delaying offshore wind projects costs our state jobs, renewable energy, and venture capital investments.Governor Christie and his administration has failed to fully implement the OWEDA, to establish a funding mechanism for offshore wind, to jump start the manufacturing of wind turbines in our state, and to develop windmills off our coast.

The Legislature can take action against the rollbacks we have seen under the Governor.We need the Clean Energy Funds to be constitutionally dedicated to prevent further raids.We need legislation establishing a funding mechanism for offshore wind projects. The Legislature must require state agencies to actually implement the Global Warming Response Act.Action must be taken to expand the Renewable Portfolio Standard for solar.

"There is no accountability and things are being done behind closed door.Even nostalgia has given way to frustration and futility.But there are still time to make changes and we need the Legislature to act now and move the state forward.We said early on that it would take years to rebuild and there is still time to make those fixes and changes," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-10-21 13:34:56

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