By Amy Goldsmith
Giving an overall grade of D, the New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF) has released its report card on Gov. Christie’s environmental policies.
NJEF combed through a range of environmental issues, actions, and policies in its grading. While scoring well on some individual assignments like his opposition to offshore drilling, liquid natural gas plants, and support for offshore wind, his highest subject grade was a C- in the clean air. He received D’s on energy, clean water, appointments, open space, and environmental values, and an F in climate change. To view the entire report, visit www.cleanwateraction.org/reportcardnj.
It was quite a change from 2 1/2 years ago when NJEF endorsed candidate Chris Christie – the first time the organization had ever endorsed a Republican gubernatorial candidate. At the time, candidate Christie in a series of interviews with board members had convincingly portrayed himself as a staunch environmental champion, and made a series of campaign promises to back that up.
However, Gov. Christie has strayed far from candidate Christie. In reviewing 39 of the most important issues facing New Jersey, the governor performed poorly – receiving “poor” or failing marks on 28 points.
“Coming out of the gate, the governor appeared relatively on course,” said board member Sharon Finlayson who chairs NJEF’s Vote Environment Committee. “Unfortunately after 2 1/2 years, there has been a continual and steady decline in his environmental policymaking. Coincidental or not, his environmental platform and commitments began to evaporate as his national stardom rose.”
Finlayson added that it is part of the endorsement process to offer praise when it is deserved, and to hold elected officials accountable when they do not live up to their campaign commitments.
The governor concurred when he publicly told NJEF last year that it was our job to tell him how he is doing on the environment and hold him accountable to his commitments. In releasing this report card, Finlayson concluded that NJEF is doing its job, but clearly the governor is not.
The NJEF report card grading system for each subject and issue was based on (in priority order):
• The importance of the issue and how well is the governor addressing it.
• Whether he had previously committed to addressing it.
• How his efforts compared to past governors’.
Top highlights and lowlights of his environmental record include:
Some of the governor’s highest scores on offshore energy issues are offset by poor positions on land-based energy including coal, natural gas and diesel.
On clean water, he received failing grades for efforts to dismantle the Highlands Act and failure to fulfill his promise to better protect the state’s most important (‘c1’) waterways, and a poor on Barnegat Bay due to loopholes and poor implementation of his well-publicized 10-point plan.
On climate change, the governor gets an F for not only abandoning his commitment to more aggressively implement the 2008 Energy Master Plan and 2007 Global Warming Response Act, but also for taking steps to weaken them. He also diverted nearly $680 million of dedicated ratepayer money away from Clean Energy Fund.
“Setting lower goals, advocating for more dirty power, and wavering on the impact of man’s contribution to climate change is bad enough,” said NJEF Board Member Ben Forest of Red Bank. “But, he unilaterally withdrew from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – costing New Jersey tens of millions of dollars, badly needed jobs, and more pollution.”
NJEF stressed that the governor can turn the D around to an A and offered the organization’s support for doing just that.
“There is absolutely no satisfaction whatsoever in giving the governor a D,” said NJEF Board Chair Janet Tauro. “This bad grade affects all of us; the environment, our health, and the well-being of future generations. He has to improve his record during his remaining time in office because New Jersey deserves nothing less. We’re here to help him or hold him accountable; it’s his choice.”
Amy Goldsmith of Red Bank, is the state director of the NJ Environmental Federation, the NJ Chapter of Clean Water Action.