Thursday, March 11, 2010

Turning around the Battleship NJDEP

U.S.S New Jersey

Remember the popular business tactic earlier this century called Managing by Storytelling?   Bob Martin, the man that Gov. Chris Christie has picked to lead New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), is testing its effectiveness.

The retired Accenture executive has been recounting for members of his DEP team some of the stories he’s heard, both on the Christie for Governor campaign trail and as a member of the Administration’s Red Tape Review Group.

The stories come from scores of business people and their consultants. They’re about frustrating encounters with the DEP-- its rules and regulations, procedures and, sometimes, personnel. 

The stories vary but share a common theme: DEP is hostile to business.  It’s the place where development plans go to die,  or be held hostage for indefinite periods, a place where applicants are assumed to be guilty until they can prove otherwise. It’s a place that seems to reflect an ingrained bias: Business and development are bad.  Stopping them is good.

Bob Martin says he’s retelling these stories because it’s necessary for DEP folks to understand how the agency is perceived and because, to the extent that the culture is biased against business, it must be changed.   

Yesterday, we reported in Getting to know NJDEP Chief Bob Martin on some of the remarks he delivered on Tuesday at a luncheon meeting of the Environmental Business Council of the Commerce & Industry Association of NJ.

Today, we pick up with some of his ideas on engaging the DEP in the Christie Administration's efforts to jumpstart the state’s economy and regain some of the business and jobs that fled over the last decade to more business-friendly states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

Acting Commissioner Martin says the DEP will:

Encourage the development of wind and solar –
New Jersey will push offshore wind developers to use state ports and manufacturing resources to assemble the turbines and other equipment necessary for offshore wind turbines. This will create new jobs for state residents.  Martin also wants to expedite permit approvals for companies interested in developing solar farms on landfills.

Support Contaminated Site Remediation Cleaning up the more than 20,000 properties that have languished in New Jersey not only benefits the environment but will stimulate economic activity an return many of the properties to productive new uses.  Martin said that New Jersey’s new Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program “will be successful” because it is “absolutely essential.”

Reactivate the Department’s Alternative Dispute Office which had helped expedite settlements and reduced the number of disputes referred to the courts. When the office  was disbanded, Martin said, the number of cases that went to the Attorney General’s office “went through the roof.”

Implement an external science advisory panel – Martin said that good science should not be rejected just because it comes from outside the DEP. 

Regulatory Reform – Martin is requiring a new review of all existing and developing DEP regulations to insure that they are based on common sense and are subject to cost/benefit analyses.  Standards that exceed those set by the federal government will be similarly reviewed to assure that there is a justifiable basis for exceeding the federal limits.

The Legislature weighs in -
Martin’s nomination to lead the DEP must be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by a vote of the full Senate. He will make his first of what likely will be at least two appearances before the committee on Monday, March 15.  The meeting begins at noon. Two other nominees for cabinet positions also will be interviewed. 
Click here to listen to a live broadcast of the proceeding.

Our most recent posts:
Getting to know NJDEP Chief Bob Martin
A move to get control of regulations in NJ
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