NJ Gov Christie May Let Bill Go Into Effect That Would Increase Coastal Damage Risk

Bill in Stark Contrast to Sandy Task Force Recommendations

Published Aug 19, 2013

WASHINGTON (August 19, 2013) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may allow a bill to go into effect without his signature today – a bill the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) calls risky and shortsighted. The new law would allow development on piers in coastal high hazard areas, putting more people and property in harm’s way.

Below is a statement by Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a senior analyst at UCS.

“It’s hard to imagine Governor Christie would allow this bill to go into effect after what New Jersey has been through. The state faces huge flooding risks because its coastline is so exposed and densely populated. With North Atlantic hurricanes becoming stronger, flooding from storm surge worsening, and sea level rise already measured at 20 inches in Atlantic City, this bill sets the stage for New Jersey to get hit hard again, when it should be making itself safer. 

“The bill could have been crafted as a compromise that allows the small number of projects already underway to continue, though given that reforms to flood insurance are bringing rates more in line with risks, will they be insurable? But encouragement from the state to develop on piers in known flood zones makes no sense.

“The bill stands in sharp contrast to the recommendations issued today by a presidential task force charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The task force’s main message is that communities must plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.

“Governor Christie and other decision makers along the coast need to put the safety and welfare of their constituents and the long-term viability of coastal communities ahead of narrow short-term economic interests. Sandy rebuilding is a critical early stage in a long campaign to make our coastal communities safer and more resilient in a future of climate change and rising sea levels. We can’t afford to go off the rails like this; there’s too much hard work to be done. If the governor fails to veto this bad legislation, he’ll be passing up an opportunity to cement his legacy as a leader who puts common sense and pragmatism above politics and special interests.”   

For more information on incentives that encourage risky coastal development, see UCS’s report “Overwhelming Risk: Rethinking Flood Insurance in a World of Rising Seas”; a blog by UCS’s senior climate economist and report author, Rachel Cleetus, which discusses the report and the New Jersey bill; and UCS Senior Analyst Erika Spanger-Siegfried’s blog, which also highlights the bill’s flaws.