ENVIRONMENT

NJ Sierra Club Director: Sandy Aid’s Sitting While People Still Suffer

Marc Ferzan, who led New Jersey’s Sandy recovery, has resigned and Terry Brody will be taking over. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that Sandy recovery money is just sitting in accounts while people are still suffering.

Tittel said that Brody’s elevation would not fundamentally alter the direction of the recovery effort because New Jersey has to change its policies. He said that first and foremost, the state is rebuilding after Sandy but is not looking at the most up to date data on climate change and sea level rise, which is putting people back into harm’s way. He said that many people along the coast feel frustrated because it is taking too long to get funding out to them. He said that the elevation program has fallen flat.

Tittel said that Gov. Chris Christie, at a press conference yesterday, had talked about providing a little over 130 grants for people. Tittle said that less than 5 percent of the people who have applied have gotten funding up until this point. He said state officials have tried to blame everybody but themselves but there is money sitting in accounts that have not gone out and in some of the program areas, only one-third of the money has gone out for people waiting to rebuild.

“I think that is because they brought in consultants that were picked for political reasons, not necessarily for competence. Christie was off running here and there with his national political agenda and no one was minding the store. He really did really little and I think that is part of the problem. That money’s sitting there while people are suffering,” said Tittel.

Today a federal judge gave the final go-ahead for sonic blasting to map the seabed offshore. When asked if that research project has legitimate goals, Tittel said that it does have some legitimate goals but there are also other concerns. He said one of the concerns is that when the sonic booms are set off under water, it is almost like underwater fireworks and it impacts sea mammals and fisheries and it can change fish patterns and chase the fish away. He said that more importantly, it can lead to the stranding of dolphins and other sea mammals because of the impact of the sonic noises. Another concern is that the data could be used, because it is public data, by oil companies to find places to drill off New Jersey, said Tittel. He said that he has blocked similar testing at the federal level for the oil companies.

The Christie administration has a new rule making a process to opt out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Tittel said that in a state that has been so impacted by climate change with Hurricane Sandy and other storms, New Jersey can actually grow its economy and create jobs while it is reducing greenhouse gases. He said that is what the initiative does. He said that New Jersey is falling behind and Christie is more concerned about his national political agenda then he is about New Jersey’s economy and environment.