Environmental Coalition Releases Sandy Report Cards

A group of enviromentalists released a report card of government agencies and leaders' response to Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Dari Kotzker.

By Dari Kotzker

An environmental coalition released its Superstorm Sandy report cards today grading the actions of government bodies as the one-year anniversary of the storm approaches. The coalition is made up of the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action/NJ Environmental Federation, New Jersey Environmental Lobby, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey and The Surfrider Foundation. They measured how government agencies and leaders responded in the aftermath of the storm and how the recovery and rebuilding efforts have been to date.

They rated the governor, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the legislature, the president and federal agencies. The score card evaluated leadership, responsiveness, policy and planning, action, outcomes and the overall grade.

Gov. Chris Christie received a “B” for his leadership, but an overall “D” for failing in policy and planning and outcomes. Some other scores included an overall “F” for the DEP and DCA, saying it failed in leadership, policy and planning and outcomes. The legislature received an overall score of “C-” and the president and federal agencies got a “C+.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said, “The purpose of the scorecard is not to point fingers, it’s a call for action. It’s about what has happened over the last year — what’s been good, bad and where changes are needed.”

The environmental leaders also said that some of the poor scores for the governor and the state departments were due to lack of transparency and rushing to rebuild instead of rebuilding in a more sustainable way. They used the Seaside Boardwalk fire as an example.

They also called for more laws, regulations and overall attention concerning sea level rising and climate change. However, they did credit Christie’s response and strong leadership in the immediate aftermath of Sandy, but have been disappointed in his lack of action in the last few months. The environmentalists were also happy the legislature held hearings, but wishes they took more legislative action.

Christie’s campaign spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the report card: “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled political attack and agenda pushing 12 days out from an election — an election in which prominent members of this coalition have endorsed the governor’s opponent.”

The DEP spokesperson deferred to the governor’s office and the DCA declined to comment.

NJTV also reached out for reaction from the legislative leaders. Senator President Stephen Sweeney declined to comment, but others did.

Sen. Tom Kean Jr. released the following statement: “These grades for the legislature may even be a little too kind. Senate President Sweeney has failed to follow Gov. Christie’s example of bipartisan leadership when it comes to helping New Jerseyans recover from Sandy and making sure they are fully protected for the next disaster. Specifically, Sen. Sweeney has failed on his own public vows to work with Senate Republicans to pass bipartisan Superstorm Sandy measures, even as legislators have been poised to address the concerns of victims and stakeholders as expressed during a plethora of hearings and meetings. Sen. Sweeney and Senate Democratic committee leaders have inexcusably blocked several Republican and bipartisan bills to ensure optimum preparedness for and utility responses during future storms; to spark faster recovery at the shore; and to protect consumers from being defrauded, abused or neglected by insurance providers and contractors. The people find this type of obstruction absolutely unacceptable.”

The Assembly Democrats Spokesperson Tom Hester Jr., said, “Nobody has been more dedicated to a comprehensive and responsible recovery that helps residents, businesses and the environment than the Assembly Democrats. It’s really not even open for debate.”

The coalition did note that from their perspective, there is still time to make changes that will help in the recovery efforts and make New Jersey more resilient to future storms.