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New Jersey Still at Risk from Storms

NJ Sierra Club

As the sixth anniversary of Sandy comes upon us, we must look at where we’ve been and where we’ve going. We’re not stronger than the next storm and the storms themselves are getting Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 15.10.47 stronger. According to a 2018 report by the United Nations IPCC, we may have as little as 12 years to reach critical levels in stopping emissions before Earth reaches a dangerous temperature. A Rutgers study notes that sea level may rise almost 3 feet by 2100. Research shows that this is a dire situation for the entire planet and NJ is especially at risk and must immediately begin working to mitigate climate change. We haven’t learned the lessons of Sandy.

“As we commemorate the sixth anniversary for Hurricane Sandy, we should never forget the impact it had on New Jersey. Many lives, communities, homes, and coastal areas were devastated. The fact is, we’re not stronger than the next storm and we haven’t moved forward to protect people and property from harm’s way. For eight years under Christie we’ve seen more development in flood-prone areas and more weakened regulations. Now we have the added threat of the Trump Administration’s climate-denying and rollbacks. New Jersey must continue to prepare coastal resiliency for increased climate impacts,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “These extreme weather events are happening way too often and with more frequency, yet we have not moved forward. We need immediate action from the Murphy Administration to restore stronger protections against climate change and sea level rise.”

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in NJ and it’s getting worse. Fish are already living in storm-drains in LBI. Some roads go underwater every time there’s a full moon and we’re losing coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. Many homeowners face rising insurance rates and high costs to elevate. Our low reservoir levels have led to an increased threat of salt water intrusion, further threatening our water supply. Many inland cities such as Hoboken also see frequent flooding. One day when we play the Dolphins in the Meadowlands, it could be real dolphins.

“We now have a Governor who has committed to fighting climate change and sea level rise. However, he has yet to take real action on climate change. The DEP’s recently announced Coastal Resilience Plan lacks the urgency needed to address the climate crisis. We can’t afford to wait a year or more for this plan to be finished. We must start taking real actions to fight climate change now. We are still the only state in the region without a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plan. We are still building in vulnerable areas and granting permits under Christie-era regulations that don’t protect against climate change or storm impacts,” said Jeff Tittel. “The impacts of climate change are happening now and we can’t wait any longer to make changes that will help protect our state.”

It’s critical that the Murphy Administration reverse Christie’s rollbacks to important water protections and regulations including the Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality Management Planning Rules, CAFRA, Wetlands, and Stormwater Management Rules. Christie’s weakened rules allow more development growth in flood-prone areas. We must fix them because they put more people in harm’s way while removing key protections for important waterways. NJ can protect vulnerable infrastructure with protective barriers as a part of a holistic approach.

“There are some direct and immediate actions that the Murphy Administration can take in the meantime to begin strengthening NJ. Murphy can create a cabinet level committee to coordinate all agencies in coastal resiliency and reducing greenhouse gasses. This includes updating all state regulations to include climate impacts, re-doing the Water Supply Master Plan, and using up-to-date data in our mapping and planning. Murphy should also put a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects and move towards 100% renewable energy including the proposed Meadowlands power plant,” said Jeff Tittel. “We can also reopen the Office of Climate Change and the Office of Climate Adaptation and Mitigation and use buy-outs to restore natural systems such as stream corridors, wetlands, and dunes.

Our state has the ability to regulate greenhouse gasses but has yet to do so. If the DEP were to begin regulating, including a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, we could prevent making climate impacts worse. We need a moratorium now because In New Jersey there are currently five proposals for new natural gas power plants and seven for new gas pipelines, with more potentially coming. Not only is this bad for our climate, but air pollution can cause asthma attacks and put people with heart problems, lung problems or children at risk.

“In order to fight climate change be reducing greenhouse gasses, we must take bold action against fossil fuels. This is why we are urging Governor Murphy to put in place a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure including power plants, pipelines and more. We need to be focusing on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, that does not release carbon and other GHG that exacerbate the effects of climate change. By doing this, we will also work to clean our air and water and transition to a green economy with more green jobs,” said Jeff Tittel. “It’s more important than ever that New Jersey becomes a leader on clean energy but will never get to 100% renewable energy as long as natural gas is a threat.”

We need to be taking a multi-state approach to tackling sea level rise and climate change. We must reduce greenhouse gasses and protect coastal ecosystems with natural features like flood storage and blue and green roofs, not building concrete walls that only redirect the flooding problem while causing other issues. We need to rebuild more resiliently to fix problems of the past such as implementing green building codes, energy efficiency standards and retrofitting stormwater systems that do not work. We can meet the Paris Accords, stop fossil fuel infrastructure, and move to a green economy.

“On the Anniversary of Sandy, we know that another similar event is 17 times more likely to happen again. Our state is still dragging our feet and we must take extreme actions to plan for climate change and sea level rise. Nature is already planning for us with flood after flood. We’re not stronger than the next storm and we need to take this situation seriously. We need the Murphy Administration to restore stronger protections for floodplains, waterways, and wetlands to reduce flooding. We also need to stop proposed large development in these areas that lead to increased flooding and pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This situation is serious and urgent. We must act now to become smarter than the next form with an aggressive agenda to fight climate change and sea level rise impacts.”

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