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HUD Calls for Action on Climate, Will Christie Listen?

Date : Wed, 30 Oct 2013 13:10:23 -0400

For Immediate Release

October 30, 2013

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

HUD Calls for Action on Climate, Will Christie Listen?

One the day after the Sandy Anniversary we still have a lot of work to do.New Jersey has just received another $1.4 billion from HUD to continue rebuilding efforts after the devastation.HUD is requiring in this round of funding using the most recent national science, climate change impacts, sea level rise, and resiliency performance standards.New Jersey has not done any of this in previous plan.And we are concerned that they may not do so in current round, jeopardizing not only funding but rebuilding our state in a more resilient manner.HUD is calling for these things and New Jersey hasn't done these things.

"One year after Sandy New Jersey hasn't made the types of changes that are needed but HUD now requires it.If we continue to play politics with climate change and climate science we can lose federal funding.Our Action Plan needs to change because current plan leaves us more vulnerable to next storm," 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.Unless NJ changes it plans it will mean a loss of funding and people and towns wont get grants to rebuild in more resilient manner."

"There have been a lot of conferences on what needs to be done to rebuild NJ in a more sustainable way including dealing with climate and sea level rise.All were very useful except by the people who need to learn the most.There were no members of the Christie administration at any of these events.The people who need to be educated the most ignored these important and informational events," 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.HUD is requiring them. 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.

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.HUD is calling for this and we aren't doing it.

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. HUD is now requiring using NOAA sea level rise info and NJ isn't using it.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.

We are especially concerned as the county hazard mitigation plans are being developed.The Ocean County plan not only maps sea level rise and potential climate change impacts but also develops an aggressive strategy to address these threats.We are concerned since the New Jersey Action Plan does not include any of this the administration could deny and/or change Ocean and other counties' plans.Requiring the New Jersey Action Plan to implement the recommendations of the HUD Taskforce Report would address these concerns.

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.

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.

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%.

"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.

"The Governor has denied climate science and said it is esoteric and those positions could jeopardize federal funding.If the governor positions sticks we could lose funding to rebuild because we have to meet criteria. Will the Governor's national political ambitions hold NJ's efforts to get money hostage or will he change his mind to allow projects to go forward," said Jeff Tittel.

HUD Release:

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-10-30 10:10:23

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