New Jersey Must Prepare for the Next Big Storm

Testimony from NJPP Policy Analyst Alex Ambrose in support of strengthening New Jersey's storm resiliency efforts.

Published on Oct 6, 2022 in Climate

My name is Alex Ambrose, and I’m the Transportation and Climate Policy Analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective. Thank you Chair Karabinchak, Chair Kennedy, and members of both committees for the opportunity to speak today.

It is past time the state takes action to secure the safety and wellbeing of our families, small business, and overall economic security. This month, we honor the people who lost their lives in the deadliest storm in NJ history. Not coincidentally, we also just passed the one-year anniversary of the second deadliest storm event, Ida. As someone who comes from a family of first responders, I saw firsthand the danger frontline workers face during these disasters.

Fortunately, New Jersey is poised to be a leader in storm resiliency.

First, we need to stabilize our current energy portfolio by reducing emissions, investing heavily in public transportation, elevating New Jersey union jobs in exciting new sectors like offshore wind and solar, and modernizing our grid. This will require a Clean Energy Jobs bill that will add not just jobs, but careers in our state and uphold local standards for craftsmanship.

Second, we need to end the diversion of Clean Energy Funds started by Governor Christie and continued in this administration. Spending the funds as they are intended opens up more funding for projects that create a better and more resilient state.

Third, we need to give the DEP full authority to regulate flooding on residential properties. As it stands right now, that authority is unclear and would best be affirmed with a legislative fix.

Finally, we ask you to join us in calling on the Murphy Administration to release the flood zone rules and NJ PACT rules promised nearly three years ago. These rules will ensure new development does not put families and small businesses in harm’s way just so a developer can make a profit. We need more housing in our state, and we need to make sure we don’t repeat our past mistakes and wake up the day after a storm to headlines of people drowning in their own apartment. It is time to stop looking to the past for planning where to build and instead to plan for the future.

I grew up in a house that was built in a 500-year flood zone. One of my earliest memories is my father carrying my family through the waist-deep waters of Hurricane Floyd. We were fortunate enough to make it to my grandparents’ house nearby before we faced imminent peril. There are too many New Jersey residents who have not been so fortunate.

For too long, our state has been exploited by corporations prioritizing profits over people. We deserve a New Jersey that values people over polluters. After Sandy, the motto said, “We are stronger than the storm.” I posit that we are also smarter than these storms. It is not a matter of if the next storm comes–it’s when. Let’s be proactive now and plan for that future. Thank you.

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