TRENTON, NJ - The DEP just announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will give New Jersey a Regional Coastal Resilience Grant of nearly $900,000. The money will go towards helping communities in 15 municipalities in northeastern Monmouth County develop a regional plan to address the impacts of coastal hazards and storm surge. We are glad to see NOAA helping these communities but concerned that the Christie Administration’s refusal to acknowledge the threat of climate change will get in the way.

“We’re glad NOAA is trying to help our towns, especially since the Christie Administration is not. Many of these towns have been trying to do the right thing but the Christie Administration has been holding them back by not letting them use words like ‘sea level rise’ and ‘climate change’. This prevents them from getting additional federal funding for resiliency. At the end of the day though, this is grant is a drop in the bucket because of the Christie Administration. We can take this money for a plan but unless New Jersey starts working for coastal mitigation and adaptation related to climate change, it won’t matter. The DEP is taking credit for this when it’s not their plan or their money,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

New Jersey recently lost out on millions of dollars of federal funding for resiliency due to the Christie Administration’s refusal of climate change. We only received $15 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s National Disaster Resiliency Competition (NDRC) grant, despite needing more than $300 million in flood relief project funding. New Jersey’s application did not mention climate change or adaptation and mitigation planning nor did it include efforts to reduce the effects of climate change or decrease carbon emissions. This clearly violated the HUD guidelines which reflect the President’s executive orders on climate change and clean power. New Jersey was not following the HUD guidelines on implementing the President’s Executive Order on climate impacts and that’s why we didn’t get the money.

“These towns got this small grant from NOAA; however, New Jersey lost millions from HUD due to not acknowledging climate change or sea level rise in our application. Governor Christie’s denial of climate change being a crisis means that the agencies are not working to mitigate or adapt for climate change. The HUD grant is about dealing with climate change and sea level rise but the DEP and the Christie Administration won’t even use those words. We need to ensure that these resiliency plans include climate impacts and sea level rise if they’re going to work,” said Jeff Tittel. “We’re getting money for towns to do these plans but since HUD denied us resiliency money, there may not be any funds to carry out the plan. A plan without implementation is a hallucination.”

The Christie Administration claims they want to address flood hazards in New Jersey but refused to consider climate change and sea level rise as an attribute to increased flooding and storm events. New Jersey’s planning does not mention of climate change or adaptation and mitigation planning nor does it work to reduce the effects of climate change. They are not looking at buyouts, creating flood storage areas, or elevating to appropriate levels. They refuse to even use the words “climate change” or “sea level rise.” This stubbornness has cost us millions of dollars in federal funding and continues to keep the people and property of New Jersey in harm’s way.

“By denying climate change, Christie is continuing to put the people of New Jersey in danger. The Governor closed the Office of Climate Change, ended DEP’s Coastal Program for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, and pulled us out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to address climate change. He has taken over a billion dollars from the clean energy fund. Christie has blocked offshore wind, while pushing pipelines and taking money from the fracking industries,” said Jeff Tittel.

When it comes to dealing with climate change and flooding, the Christie Administration have moved in the wrong direction. Christie has been in office we have seen 22 major weather events and we are the worst state in the nation for flooding damage. Rutgers predicts that the coast will see a 1 ft. increase in sea level by 2050 and that is up to 3 ft. with ebb and flow. The state has not only failed to protect us from future storms, but has not taken into consideration sea level rise or completed suitable FEMA mapping after Hurricane Sandy. A recent sea level rise expert reported most barrier islands will be under water in 50 years, showing the immediacy of implementing long term solutions to address flooding, but we still aren’t using proper projections are for sea level rise. Without climate change data and projections, we cannot properly protect our shores from the effects of climate change like sea level rise and storm surges.

“Monmouth County is trying to do the right thing; however, unless the Christie Administration lets them consider the impacts of sea level rise and climate impacts, it won’t work. We should be implementing adaptation and mitigation planning based on updated flood maps and environmental predictions. In order to fight future storm surges and flooding we need to be using real science, not the political science of the Christie Administration,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The federal monies coming in for resiliency plans should be for adaptation and mitigation for the ongoing effects of climate change so that New Jersey will have a fighting chance. By failing to take to address or even acknowledge sea level rise and climate change the Christie Administration has caused a disaster along the coast.”