Christie inks enviro-bills at the beach

WARETOWN – Gov. Chris Christie brought three environmental bills to safe harbor in a pirate cove in Waretown, Ocean County

WARETOWN – Gov. Chris Christie brought three environmental bills to safe harbor in a pirate cove in Waretown, Ocean County today, including a bill dealing with the health of Barnegat Bay and the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant.

Beachcombers and part of the environmental lobby awaiting his signature cheered as his vehicle pulled up on the beach at Bluebeard Way.

But as the governor was signing the bills, a schism in the environmental lobby was apparent with NJ Environmental Federation campaign director David Pringle in attendance, but the other statehouse environmental steward, Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, absent.

He handed the first pen used to sign the bills to Pringle, who supported Christie in his run to office.

Tittel has called Christie’s plan to restore Barnegat Bay and close the nuclear facility there “at best mediocre and in some areas it is outright dangerous.”

The plant will close in nine years – a term that Christie said today is appropriate for the state and, Exelon, the company who owns Oyster Creek – due to Christie’s demand that they either put in cooling towers to protect the bay or shudder the windows. Given the extreme costs of the towers, the company chose the latter.

Tittel said in a recent release, “(Christie) made a weak regulatory proposal for Barnegat Bay that does not adequately protect the Bay and does not set a standard to actually clean the Bay. When Governor Christie ran he promised that he would protect Barnegat Bay and deal with the cooling towers issue at Oyster Creek, he has done neither. He has taken the side of the polluter over the Bay with his decision to side with Exelon.”

Tittel thinks the permit process for the cooling towers would have caused the plant to shut down in less than nine years.

The problem, Christie said, is the uncertainty of that plan, as opposed to the finality of his.

That, and that Tittel is harboring “bitterness” because the candidates the outspoken enviro has backed through the years have not been able to handle the nuclear bay problem.

Tittel did not support Christie last year, and has been a veritable persona non grata in this administration.

Even with his criticisms on the record, Tittel still sent out a release applauding the environmental efforts taken today.

The Barnegat bill will inspect and repair storm water basins that are leeching pollutants into the bay.

Another bill, backed by Assembly Democrats John McKeon (D-West Orange) and Upendra Chivukula (D-Franklin Twp.), sets the “toughest fertilizer standards in America,” Christie said. “Believe me we got a lot of pushback from that industry.”

He also said he’s been trying to recruit Chivukula for the red team.

“We’re gonna get him onto the Republican side of the legislature,” Christie half-joked, noting the cross-aisle support. “These are not partisan issues and they don’t have to be.”

Christie said he’ll soon unveil the state’s plans to replace the energy produced by the Oyster Creek plant, with the environment in mind.

His administration is also hard at work finishing the state’s Energy Master Plan, and he voice concern that the state’s energy needs aren’t even being met now before the plant closure.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the state is using a $10 million grant for the storm water bill and is making zero- or low-interest loans available to municipalities from $100 million in the Environmental Infrastructure Trust fund.

Christie inks enviro-bills at the beach