Sierra Club: DEP McCabe Mystery

The New Jersey Statehouse and Capitol Building In Trenton

DEP McCabe Mystery

According to Twitter users, the NJ Governor’s office had previously tweeted news regarding the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner McCabe. Reporter Scott Fallon says that Commissioner McCabe will be taking leave for the rest of the month for a family trip. No press releases on this announcement are currently available on either the Governor’s site or the DEP’s site.

“This entire situation is confusing and troubling; Commissioner McCabe leaving for an entire month for a family trip doesn’t make sense. We need the Governor’s office and the DEP to explain to the public what is going on. This has never happened before in the history of the agency and we hope everything is okay with her and her family. The DEP is the agency that makes sure we have clean air and water and that our toxic sites are cleaned up. This is the agency that’s responsible for overseeing 3,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey needs a DEP that is organized, consistent, and transparent.”

According to what’s been announced, it was announced that Chief Policy Advisory for the Governor, Kathleen Frangione, rather than DEP Deputy Commissioner Debbie Manns, was named as her acting replacement until McCabe’s return on October.

“Why weren’t the deputy commissioners or others with many years experience within the agency given the title of acting commissioner in McCabe’s absence? Frangione doesn’t have any history of working with the DEP or any environmental agency. Instead, they could have elevated one of the many staff who have long histories working within the DEP, including the Assistant Commissioner or Chief of Staff. The fact that someone outside the agency is running the DEP while she is away raises even more questions and concerns about what is going on within the agency,” said Jeff Tittel.

The New Jersey Sierra Club has had serious concerns with Commissioner McCabe since her initial appointment and testimony at hearings. McCabe called polluters “customers” and claimed to be “fair and balanced”. She also questioned NJ’s complex regulatory system and called it a “scheme” and questioned why we have stricter regulations than the federal level. McCabe erroneously applauded the DEP’s record on enforcement, despite NJ having seen a drop in enforcement anywhere from 30% to 60% in various program areas under Christie and she supports Christie’s plan for Barnegat Bay while defending their overall environmental policies and keeping most of the senior DEP staff.

“DEP Commissioner McCabe’s tenure so far has been controversial with many environmentalists and Murphy-supporters. Many of her policies seem to contradict Governor Murphy’s original environmental stances and transition reports. She has gone back on the Administration’s promises to stop the bear hunt and re-open the Office of Climate Change. She has failed to pull down the Highlands Septic Density Rules and erroneously praised the Christie’s DEP’s enforcement record. We hope that during the rest of the Administration, Commissioner McCabe takes more action to fulfill Murphy’s environmental commitments,” said Jeff Tittel. “She’s also allowing the agency to go forward with the bear hunt.”

As Commissioner, McCabe has not been proactive on the clean-up of the DuPont site in Pompton Lakes and seemed to blame the victims while claiming satisfaction at efforts to deal with toxic vapors. Her statements unofficially supported Pilgrim Pipeline as an alternative to Bakken oil trains, an unsubstantiated and dangerous statement. When asked about re-opening the Office of Climate Change, McCabe claims that the functions of the office were moved elsewhere. This is the same answer given by Bob Martin under Christie.

“In the history of the DEP, there’s never been a Commissioner leave for an entire month. We’re concerned that the DEP hasn’t made promised changes since the new Administration has taken over, resulting in low morale and a continuation of bad Christie policies. This announcement only raises more serious concerns about the DEP and Commissioner McCabe. Our state is in the middle of an environmental crisis; we see the impacts of sea level rise, drinking water threats and contaminated sites. What the agency does will be critical for the future of our state and that’s why its leadership is so important,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Now that they’re deleted their press release, we don’t know what’s happening with leadership of the DEP. There is too much uncertainty surrounding the agency right now. We need to know what’s really happening at the DEP.”

 

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