TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie’s budget speech yesterday was silent on environmental issues, to the dismay of environmental advocates.
“This is a critical time. We need to rebuild the shore. Climate change is an ever-growing worry. Our open space preservation fund is dwindling. And we need to make sure New Jersey is positioned as a leader in alternative energy for generations to come,” said Assembly Environment Committee Chairwoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex). “Yet Gov. Christie apparently has no plans for to take on these concerns, and that should give pause to everyone who cares about a clean environment and preservation.”
“The Governor has not learned the lessons of Hurricane Sandy,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “In his speech he does not mention climate change, adaptation or prevention. There are no programs for buyouts or open space preservation. There are no programs to rebuild the shore smarter or better. It is the status quo with additional cuts to environmental and clean energy funding. Instead of building smarter and more resilient after the storm we are cutting essential environmental and clean energy programs.”
According to the FY 2014 budget summary released yesterday, the Department of Environmental Protection’s budget will decrease from $341,619,000 to $328,162,000 next year.
The budget summary says, “The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), through its existing Blue Acres program and potential federal Sandy dollars, will pursue buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas. The emphasis will be on large groups of homes or neighborhoods in areas most susceptible to flooding.”
However, there is no mention of any state funding for the program. Instead, in his speech, Christie focused on rapid rebuilding efforts, at one point pledging “I expect to go the Jersey Shore every summer for the rest of my life, including this summer of 2013.”