New Jersey First State To Require Planners To Consider Climate Change

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Last month, the Trump maladministration issued new guidelines that forbid planners to consider climate change when designing new infrastructure projects such as pipelines, buildings, roads, seawalls, and the like.

“Many of America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously burdensome federal approval process,” Trump thundered from the Roosevelt Room at White House. “From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority. For the first time in 40 years, we’re going to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions.”

Translation? Forget the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Forget all that namby pamby sissy stuff the EPA has been persevering over for the past 4 decades. Clear the decks so corporations can run roughshod over bleeding heart liberals and their environmental concerns. America is open for business and if that means poisoning its land, skies, and waterways so industry can continue making obscene profits, so be it. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are standing up and cheering the accelerating destruction of the environment.

Why are the so-called president and his most trusted adviser implementing these new policies? Because they are incapable of looking more than a year or two down the road. Melting ice caps? Rising global temperatures? Higher sea levels and more frequent storms? Those are all just predictions made by a bunch of greedy scientists looking to fatten their wallets with lucrative research grants. No one can predict the future, so why worry about it? Start the steam shovels! Crank up the cement mixers! America can’t be bothered about the future when there’s money to be made today.

New Jersey Sees Things Differently

Sea Level Rise In New Jersey
Image credit: Rutgers University

New Jersey has a different idea. Governor Phil Murphy announced this week he will order the state Department of Environmental Protection to begin drafting new regulations that will require builders and developers to take climate change — including rising sea levels — into account when applying for new permits. The new regulations are to take effect by January of 2022 according to The New York Times.

“This is not abstract for us,”Murphy said in an interview. “This is real. The dangers are there.” He is not exaggerating. New Jersey has 130 miles of coastline and a report by Rutgers University published last November found that the sea level along the New Jersey is rising twice as fast as the global average. Since 1911 it has risen 1.5 feet compared with the global mean of 0.6 feet.

The study authors say to expected another foot of rise by 2030. That’s 10 years from now, people. 1.5 feet in 110 years. Another foot in 10 years. A two-year-old can see where this is leading. In Atlantic City, tidal flooding occurs 10 times more frequently than it did in the middle of the last century. By 2050, Atlantic City could experience high tide flooding 120 days a year, according to the Rutgers study.

Insanity In High Places

That’s what makes the Trump rules so insane. The Trumpies are saying, “Who cares what happens in 10 years? That’s too far away to predict with any degree of accuracy so we would prefer to sit here with our fingers in our ears and do nothing.” Gotta love people who are willing to throw the country and its people under the bus so brazenly.

The problem, of course, is that when 2030 gets here and those predictions turn out to be accurate, it will be too late to do anything about the situation and any possible remediation will cost 5 or 10 times more than it would to address the issue today. And yet millions of Americans stand up and cheer every time the bloviating jackass in the Offal Office shoots off his mouth. It’s a puzzlement, that’s for sure.

The Executive Order Conundrum

One issue with Governor Murphy’s approach is that he is using his power to issue executive orders instead of working with the state legislature. That has Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the Republican minority leader, perturbed. “Phil Murphy might be forgetting that we still make the laws,” he tells the New York Times. “If he’s going to roll out something that’s going to stop development in New Jersey, that calls for serious legislative hearings.” It’s possible Bramnick doth protest too much when he claims the new policies will stop all development in the state dead in its tracks. That’s a favorite trick of politicians who aren’t getting their way.

Michael Egenton, executive vice president for governmental relations at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, takes a more measured approach. He says he is not opposed to the regulation but worries that the concerns of the business community are not being fully considered. “You have to keep costs in mind, because we are in competition with New York, with Delaware, and surrounding states,” he warns. Egenton says there is a recognition among business leaders that the time is ripe for a development approach that is more focused on resiliency. “I think we all, collectively, have to start thinking differently, start thinking smarter.”

The proposed rules would require any application for a Department of Environmental Protection permit to factor in how climate change is expected to impact the project, as well as the effect of its emissions on global warming. The rules would apply to the construction of state-funded projects and anything built with grants that pass through the DEP.  That would include a condominium near a flood-prone river, a public school close to the ocean, natural gas pipelines, and any carbon emitting power plants, according to The Times.

Supporters Have Concerns As Well

Environmentalists are not altogether happy with the governor’s approach. For one thing, he is up for re-election in 2021. If he loses his office, all those rules could go right out the window. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, tells The Times Murphy’s proposal is a “good opening step.” But there’s a lot of water than needs to move under the bridge before the new rules take effect.

“They come out with these great big pronouncements and then there’s no follow through,” he says. “And you’re sitting there waiting and waiting.” Tittel thinks the governor should freeze all existing applications now, not 2 years from now. “We have to move quicker than two years,” he contends.

Support From Experts

Experts in environmental laws and regulations tell The Times that New Jersey’s efforts are quite novel. “This is a big deal,” said Rob Moore, director of the water and climate team at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For New Jersey to step to the forefront and say, ‘We’re going to look at future climate impacts, and that it’s going to be a driver of our decision-making’ — that’s exactly what all 50 states need to be doing.”

Jeanne Herb, director of the environmental analysis group at Rutgers, says her school issued a report in March that evaluated New Jersey’s climate-change policies in relation to 14 other states. Several other states, including Rhode Island, are moving toward using land-use laws to confront coastal resiliency, she said. “It would certainly seem that New Jersey would really be taking a big leap here. This is a pretty big commitment to say they’re going to revise rules governing land use. It’s pretty innovative.”

No Time To Waste

Shawn LaTourette, chief of staff at the Department of Environmental Protection, tells The Times he is fully aware of the urgency behind the governor’s actions and will move forward with preparing the new rules as quickly as possible. “You need the carrot and the stick. We’ve put out a lot of carrots — incentives — but the regulation needs to be the stick,” he says. “It’s a watershed moment for us. Unless we want to send boats in to save everybody, we can’t back down.”

If you are in charge of maintaining a piece of property — or a nation — you budget in advance for expected expenditures. Roofs and heating systems need to be replaced periodically. Failure to plan is the sign of an amateur and when people’s lives are at stake, such clown-show antics are inexcusable. Yet Trump and his acolytes refuse to behave like adults, putting off needed actions as long as possible. That approach will end up bankrupting America, yet still his supporters cheer his reckless shenanigans. America needs more adults and fewer clowns. That’s how to insure she remains a great country.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

Steve Hanley has 5257 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley