Coastal Access and Greenhouse Gas in New Jersey

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Bob Martin, New Jersey Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, discussed the DEP's proposal regarding public access to the waterfront; Governor Christie's announcement that NJ will opt out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and fracking in New Jersey.

For beaches, one size fits all?

Under a new DEP proposal, New Jersey's beach towns would see incentives for coming up with public access plans for their shores. Bob Martin said that allowing each town to have its own individual plan was preferable to a fixed set of rules for everyone.

We're trying to get away from one-size-fits-all regulation. Towns come forward to the DEP and say, look, because of physical constraints or whatever, we can provide this much parking; we can't provide these three access points onto the beach, but we can do more parking over here and more bath facilities over here. It's about trying to find best combination for towns going forward.

Under the proposal, local aid for beach replenishment and public spaces would flow more freely to townships that confronted their beach access problems. "We can prioritize the towns that give us plans versus the towns that don't," he told Brian Lehrer.

Endless bummer

Not everyone sees it that way. Environmental advocacy groups like the New Jersey Surfriders Foundation and the American Littoral Society hold that if municipalities were given free reign to design their own plans, many would opt to shirk their "public access obligation." Residents and homeowners of beach communities might benefit at the expense of every other Jerseyian's right to beach access, as parking and other amenities for out-of-towners dwindle.

A caller from the Surfriders Foundation pointed out that while Martin's talk of prioritizing towns with plans was nice, it wasn't anywhere in the written proposal. He also found fault with letting municipal planning boards make decisions without substantial input from the public—an inevitability, he said. Altogether, the DEP's denigration of "one-size-fits-all regulation" didn't make sense to the caller.

If beach access is universal right given to every resident of New Jersey, you can't have this rhetoric that talks about flexibility and one size doesn't fit all...Of course one size fits all, because it's a universal right. We don't have different free speech regulations in Arizona than New York, because it's universal.

Martin responded:

Over time towns have built up around different things, parking or no parking, that sort of thing. The access issue is a little more complicated than that. Making it sound that simple isn't the case, and that's why we're trying to give the towns more flexibility.

The commissioner's terminology, however, came close to contradicting one of his earlier arguments for the DEP proposal:

What's in place now gives each town complete control...Right now, we're taking a significant part of that back and setting new priorities for them. The fact of the matter is, we're now putting a new paradigm in place.

Reggie and the greenhouse effect

A bit of good news for New Jersey: recent studies show that since 2008, the state has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent, which is triple the national average.

Right on its heels, a bit of controversial news for New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie has pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, dubbed "Reggie"), a ten-state cap and trade plan that's reportedly responsible for a 10 percent decline in regional greenhouse gases over the past few years.

So why is the state backing out after receiving high marks for its emissions control? Martin said that RGGI has had little to do with the state's environmental success. The cost-effective writing is on the wall, he said, and power generators are already moving to other fuels for economic reasons, he told Brian Lehrer.

The RGGI program has been ineffective...Data show we've already achieved our 2020 goal for greenhouse gases by lowering them to that level; we are already at 1990 levels. We've also had policies of shifting over to natural gas, which is getting less expensive; we're getting off coal, pushing for more offshore wind, pushing for solar...We will continue to lower greenhouse gases, but the governor wants real solutions, not just something that's an ineffective program.


Bob Martin


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Comments [10]

Bill Wofe from Ringoes, NJ

Martin was dissembling on claims about DEP leverage over towns.

"DEP officials have claimed, in sum and substance, that for towns that fail to provide sufficient public access, DEP can (1) cut off those towns from Green Acres funding, (2) rank those towns
lower on the state’s priority list for beach replenishment money, and (3) deny those towns permits for beach and dune maintenance. The proposed rule contains no such “penalty” provision, not for Green Acres funding, not for beach replenishment funding, and not for beach
and dune maintenance.

The present rule requires additional public access requirements for Green Acres lands [present 7:7E-8.11(q)]. The proposed rule deletes all of those provisions and does not contain any
references to Green Acres lands."

At some point, Martin's spin become a flat out lie.

Jun. 03 2011 05:28 PM
Bill Wolfe from Ringoes, NJ

The DEP greenhouse gas emissions inventory data for 2008 is being spun and mischaracterized as a real reduction.

If you look at the numbers, the margin of error (+/- 6.2 MMT) and dubious changes in estimating methodology regarding carbon sequestration in forests and soils (> 5 MMT) account for MORE than the alleged emissions reductions. Additionally, although DEP revised methodology in several ways, all of which tended to reduce emissions, they ignored a huge change in EPA emissions factors for natural gas. If those larger emissions from natural gas were included, the total 2008 emissions would have INCREASED, not decreased. I go into more detail and provide links to the documents, here:

Second, it was outrageous for Martin to attribute the 2 year delay in publishing this inventory data on "federal data". Governor Christie killed DEP's proposed greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting rule, which would have provided real data (not estimates based on federal emissions factors and fuel use data.).I don't think Martin even knows the differnce between real data and estiamtes based on emissions factors.

Martin is clueless - he calls the NY Times
"just wrong" on RGGI, but then doesn't have the data to back that criticism up or to explain RGGI and its role in the emissions inventory data.

The only thing he was correct on with rspect to RGGI was the fact that the so called emission caps are far too high. But that longstanding problem is easily resolvable by lowering the caps.

Martin's comments about the Gov. stealing $113 million in RGGI money that should have gone to green energy are outrageously misleading. The RGGI money was in addition to the Societal Benefits money. ANd the impacts of RGGI on residential electric bills is so low its silly - about 27 cents per MONTH. To claim that this hurts ratepayers is a huge lie.

Other than all that, Martin did OK (and I won't weigh in here on all the misleading statements on beach access, other than to provide this link which explains it all:

Jun. 03 2011 03:33 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ Hugh - You can say that NJ DEP is lying. Sure thing. Just check out a report they released the same day that Gov. Christie (the brilliant policymaker!) announced the planned pull-out of the RGGI cap-and-trade system that has helped reduced carbon emissions in NJ during the year 2007-08 (pre-Great Recession) by 8.1% overall.

"...The report shows that in 124.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) was generated in New Jersey in 2008, compared to 135.9 MMTCO2e generated by the state in 2007. The state’s 2008 net emissions fell below 1990 emissions levels of 125.6 MMTCO2e, which was set as the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target by the state’s Global Warming Response Act, which was enacted in 2007."

I know; terrible. In large part due to RGGI, NJ has experienced emission reductions for CO2 and concomitant pollutants combined with increased NJ state revenue. Let's get ideological and shut down successful programs. Sounds smart to me.


Annual DEP greenhouse gas report shows NJ emissions down 8.1 percent in one year

Jun. 01 2011 11:28 AM

Bob Martin is just lying when he says that NJ has reduced GHG emissions to 1990 levels. The obvious question is what specific number he's picking and choosing to pretend his claim is justified.

Jun. 01 2011 10:42 AM
Eric from Verona, N.J.

I am working while listening to this segment on limiting access to beaches. But, as an African American, on the face of it sounds like there is the potential of going back to segregated beaches of early southern U.S., and apartheid South Africa. When all is said and done, white people don't seem to like black folks. The nation is falling back into it's old way racially specking in so many ways. I wonder if this is yet another way - a de facto segregation.

Jun. 01 2011 10:37 AM

This will be a way for well-to do townships to keep the less well-to do folks out of their area. Works every single time!

Jun. 01 2011 10:36 AM
Brian from Hoboken

As someone who has spent 2 decades in Avalon, I can tell you this can't be a single plan for every town. Avalon offers access to it's beaches on every single block. There is street parking there. However, there is no room for restrooms every single block (you can't build
On protected sand dunes). Avalon offers day beach goers 4 square city blocks of free parking, handicap access, and restrooms. If you think NJ is bad, try going to the Hamptons.

Jun. 01 2011 10:33 AM
tim dillingham from highlands nj

the commissioner is wrong

the sticks are non-existent, and not in the rules so unenforceable

my organization is quoted in the Star Ledger

Jun. 01 2011 10:33 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

I grew up in Oregon, and every inch of the coastline is open to the public. What prevents this kind of access here?


Jun. 01 2011 10:32 AM
JohnnJersey from Monmouth County

If you care about this Beach Access issue please see this 2 minute video and take action. Call the Gov. The number is at the end of the video with talking points.
The truth is the proposed rule will not improve access in the half-dozen inaccessible beach towns in NJ. It may not get worse everywhere else, but it is not going to get better. It is the status quo rule.

Jun. 01 2011 10:17 AM

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