TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie told reporters that he’s too busy focusing on rebuilding to worry about whether global warming caused Superstorm Sandy, but he apparently has time to be honored at a $3,800-a-plate dinner later this month held by a politically-connected lobbyist at his Virginia mansion.
At a Tuesday press appearance in Union Beach, Christie said, “I have to tell you the truth, I’ve been focused on a lot of things; the cause of this is not one of them that I’ve focused on.”
Sandy was the second major storm in two years to cause widespread flooding, damage and power outages in New Jersey. Many believe that the storm is one sign of the impact of climate change.
Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said that the damage from Sandy “was worse because of sea level rise” and noted that sea level in New York City is a foot higher now than it was 100 years ago because of man-made climate change.
“With all the people of New Jersey that have been devastated by the recent storms, for the Governor to try to ignore climate change is outrageous, dangerous, and puts people at risk. If we do not deal with climate change as we rebuild we will be wasting millions of dollars and putting people in harm’s way,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed an ambitious program this week that would dedicate up to $400 million to buy out the owners of flood-prone areas, New Jersey’s own Blue Acres program has only been able to purchase about 200 properties in the past 20 years and is now out of money.
The governor’s re-election campaign stands to benefit from a Feb. 28 fundraiser being held by Ed Rogers, chairman of lobbying firm BGR which is employed by a Florida debris-removal company that recently landed a lucrative contract to clean up after storms like Sandy.
BGR co-founder Haley Barbour, a close friend of Christie, was reportedly one of the people who recommended AshBritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla. to the New Jersey governor.
AshBritt was originally awarded an emergency contract to remove debris associated with Sandy, though the firm actually subcontracts the work to other companies. In January, AshBritt received a second contract guaranteeing their work on future emergencies.
“Since Superstorm Sandy hit, Governor Chris Christie’s sweetheart deals gave AshBritt more than $100 million in state and municipal contracts and guaranteed the company millions more with a second contract for work on future natural disasters,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is also chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. “If Governor Christie was still U.S. Attorney Christie, he’d be breaking out the podium to announce a pay-to-play investigation right about now.”