BY TOM HESTER SR.
State Environmental Protection Assistant Commissioner Michele Siekerka Friday was named to lead the DEP’s Water Resource Management office and Robert A. Marshall, an assistant counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, was named the DEP’s assistant commissioner for Sustainability and Green Energy
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced the senior management changes, stating he is redeploying people he described as effective administration leaders to critical posts to most effectively carry out the department's five priority goals.
Siekerka, who has been an assistant commissioner for Economic Growth and Green Energy (EGGE), will replace current Assistant Commissioner for Water Resource Management John Plonski, who is leaving the department.
Marshall will replace Siekerka as the assistant commissioner for Economic Growth and Green Energy. Martin said that to accurately reflect the mission and activities of that office, its name has been changed to Sustainability and Green Energy (SAGE).
"After pioneering DEP's then-newly established EGGE office, I appreciate Michele Siekerka's willingness to take on another new challenge," Martin said. "Michele's extensive work on the State Strategic Plan Steering Committee combined with her strategic management skills will enable DEP to develop and execute strategies for comprehensive water management and a sustainable water infrastructure for New Jersey.
Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director, is critical of Siekerka taking over the Division of Water Resource Management.
"We are very concerned about her appointment since she has no background in engineering, water supply or water quality," Tittel said. "The New Jersey Sierra Club believes there is an inherent conflict of interest since she is also serving currently as a chairman of the board of Roma Bank. Roma Bank Corp. invests money in shopping centers, office parks, and residential developments. We are concerned as her job as assistant commissioner she is involved in water and sewer permitting as well as water supply. The president of Roma Bank is the former Republican state Senator Peter Inverso. The bank is very active politically in trying to weaken environmental protections.
“Having her in charge of our water supply is like putting Ben & Jerry’s in charge of Weight Watchers,” Tittel said. "Before the DEP she worked as a lobbyist at the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce where some of the biggest polluters in the region like PSEG and Hill-Wallack, the largest developer attorney in New Jersey are members. The head of the Mercer Chamber, Bobby Prunetti who was the former Republican Mercer County executive, testified in favor of fracking and lifting the moratorium. That was in 2011 at the DRBC meeting on the natural gas drilling regulations. As the assistant commissioner for Water Resource she is New Jersey’s representative on the DRBC. She is also currently on the board of the NJ Economic Development Authority, which loans out money for development projects.