Sierra Club: Frangione Appointed Acting DEP Commissioner

Frangione Appointed Acting DEP Commissioner

The Governor’s office has officially announced that Chief Policy Advisory Kathleen Frangione will be Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This is because current Commissioner McCabe is away for family reasons for the rest of the month. The Sierra Club has concerns not only with Frangione leading the agency, but with the track record of the agency itself since Governor Murphy’s Administration took over.

“Kathleen Frangione has been named Acting Commissioner of the DEP for the rest of the month. We concerned that Frangione doesn’t have a history of working in the DEP or running an environmental agency. We don’t understand why deputy commissioner, chief of staff, assistant commissioners or others with many years experience within the agency given the title of acting commissioner in McCabe’s absence?” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We also wonder if this also slow down policy work in the Governor’s office since she will be working with the DEP.”

Given climate change and sea level rise, New Jersey is becoming more vulnerable to storm events and extreme weather. Reports show our water and air getting dirtier. Under the Christie Administration, we’ve seen rollbacks to some of the most important water and environmental protection rules. The DEP under Governor Murphy has not made efforts to replace these rollbacks. Even New Jersey’s process of rejoining RGGI is being delayed, meaning we will miss out on the economic and health benefits.

“The DEP has been moving slowly until now and we’re concerned that this will slow them down even more. There critical issues the agency needs to be dealing with including moving forward with RGGI and protecting clean air and water. This is the first Administration that hasn’t put in place a new rule in the first few months, let alone the first nine months. There are many project applications in front of the agency for pipelines, power plants, and other fossil fuel infrastructure. They also have not yet announced plans for the Volkswagen settlement funds,” said Jeff Tittel.

Before working for the state, Frangione spent most of the last eight years working for McBEE Strategic Consultants and Signal Group. These groups are also connected to and lobbied for the law firm Wiley Rein. These are large DC lobby and law firms that have many major clients and associations.

“We hope that due diligence has occurred when it comes to potential conflicts of interest, especially since Frangione previously worked in the private sector on environment and energy issues. Our concern is that some of the clients she worked with or for are regulated entities that have business in front of the NJDEP. Other companies are associations that may have taken positions contrary to the Murphy Administration,” said Jeff Tittel. “We’re concerned that we may lose momentum in the DEP on important issues while Frangione is Acting Commissioner.”

Governor Murphy ran on a platform of ending cuts, protecting the environment, and promoting clean energy. Since then, many of Murphy’s promises have been broken and his commitments ignored by his Administration. Murphy originally supported a complete ban on fracking including fracking activities in the Delaware River. Lately, the Administration seems to backing away from including fracking waste issue. After eight years of Christie’s budget cuts, we wanted the DEP budget to increase. Instead, it’s being cut by 14% including $6 million less from operations.

“New Jersey needs a DEP that is organized, consistent, and transparent. This 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. 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. “The DEP and the Murphy Administration needs to move forward quickly on many important issues. We hope that this appointment doesn’t hold us back from the momentum we need to strengthen the agency and protect the environment.”

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