DEP, DCA nominees speak to mayors

Gov. Christie's picks to lead the Departments of Environmental Protection and Community Affairs made brief statements to about 150 mayors gathered in the statehouse Wednesday, offering some hints as to how they plan to lead. Neither Bob Martin, for DEP, nor Lori Grifa, for DCA, has been appeared before the Senate Judiciary committee yet, the next step in the confirmation process.

Martin, a former executive with global management firm Accenture who focused mainly on utilities and energy issues, said that he will bring desperately-needed leadership, management and direction to the DEP. He said he would make sure permits are issued more quickly, inspections are done more quickly and efficiency in operations overall is improved. "I will enforce the environmental laws of this state," Martin said, "but we must change the way DEP operates."

"Individuals, businesses and towns need to be treated like customers and we need to get action done quickly," he said.

Martin noted staff cuts of 20 percent over the last eight years, reducing the DEP's manpower from 3,700 employees to 2,900, even as federal and state environmental regulations have increased. He said his priorities would include implementing the Licensed Site Professionals program to remediate contaminated sites using consultants instead of DEP staff, supporting the growth of solar and wind energy, changing the culture at the DEP, making regulations less complex, expanding the use of technology within the DEP and protecting the ocean and waterways. 

Grifa, an attorney with extensive experience in both the public and private sector, including serving as chief of staff to the state Attorney General from 2002-2003, told mayors the loaf of bread this year is very small and nobody should take more than they need.

"None of us are children. This isn't Toys R Us. We cannot have what we cannot pay for," Grifa said.

Grifa said that while she does not plan to play "gotcha," some of the things that have crossed her desk have already caused her to do more than scratch her head.

Grifa pledged transparency and to work with mayors.

On the contentious issue of affordable housing, Grifa said that towns should have a say in how, when and where affordable housing is constructed. "That message has been lost," she said, adding that she has serviced as a municipal attorney and special council to municipalities on affordable housing issues.  

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