Trenton, NJ: Senate President Sweeney is introducing a new bill to provide funds for disaster aid. The bill would create a planning process to earmark funds for county emergency management officials. The counties could use these funds to prepare for disasters by creating plans, establishing emergency shelters, gathering supplies, or outreach for the public. Counties would receive funding through these grants based on to-be- determined need. We support helping communities in New Jersey prepare for these storms but want to stress the importance of tying these efforts into those to reduce climate change.

“We need this legislation to make us safer during the next storm. Governor Christie’s programs have put more people in harms’ way and have failed to deal with climate change and sea level rise. We need to have plans and programs in place reduce the amount of danger and damage that come with these ever more frequent storms. The Governor should have created a bill like this four years ago. He also should be allowing New Jersey to acknowledge and fight climate change and sea level rise. While the Christie Administration and Legislature continue to dedicate funds to preparing for disasters they need to remember that they have to combat climate change to fight these disasters as well,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Since Christie never instituted a proper Climate Adaptation Program, we need legislation like this bill to deal with his failed coastal policies.”

Governor Christie’s policies have only made climate change, and these storm events, worse. After Hurricane Sandy, not taken into consideration sea level rise or completed suitable FEMA mapping after Hurricane Sandy. Without using climate change data and projections, we cannot properly re-build to protect our shores from the results of climate change like sea level rise and storm surges. The DEP’s recent changes to the CAFRA and Coastal Zone Management rules will add more loopholes and waivers and weakening coastal protections.  The rules do not strengthen protections, encourage more regional planning, address climate change or sea level rise, and they do not include programs for adaptation or mitigation of sea level rise, resiliency, or natural systems restoration. This will add more development in hazard areas and put people and property in harm’s way.

“We thank the bills sponsors Senators Sweeney and Vitale for this legislation. However, we wouldn’t need a bill like this if Christie had done a Sandy Recovery Program years ago. Since he did not act, now the Legislature must do so. We should be spending money on adaptation and mitigation, restoring natural systems and requiring green buildings and energy efficiency so that New Jersey will have a fighting chance. If we don’t start reducing our greenhouse gasses, we will see these deadly storms become stronger and more frequent. This bill would be a great way to start planning for the consequences of these storms but we also need to try and reduce the storms altogether by fighting climate change,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Jamie Zaccaria