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New Jersey Legislature Worse Than Bush Administration on the Environment

Date : Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:39:51 -0400

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Tittel June 11, 2008 (609) 558-9100

New Jersey Legislature Worse Than Bush Administration on the Environment

Two days ago the Sierra Club sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 2, asking them to intervene in the proposed Permit Extension Act. The club strongly believes that this proposed legislation undermines New Jersey’s ability to implement federally-delegated programs in the state. It will interfere with the state’s ability to protect the environment for the people of New Jersey and, in doing so, will violate federal law, Memorandums of Agreement, and other legal obligations.

“We very rarely see eye-to-eye with the Bush Administration on the environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, “but this bill is so bad that we need them to step forward and protect the people of New Jersey and our environment from the New Jersey legislature. Even though we have major policy disagreements with the Bush Administration, we know that they share some of the same concerns with this legislation and the impact that it will have.”

Under many federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, authority to implement the program has been delegated by the federal government to the state. Because this legislation interferes with the state’s ability to live up to its commitments to implement these programs, the EPA needs to intercede to prevent New Jersey from going forward with the Permit Extension Act in its current form.

This bill would:

* undermine implementation of the Total Maximum Daily Load program on the Passaic River, stopping the clean up of sewer plants along the river and threatening New Jersey’s water supply

* prevent the state from implementing changes in the Safe Drinking Water Act and RCRA (the law on contaminated sites), allowing more toxins into our drinking water and our communities

* violate the Coastal Zone Management Act, prevent the state from requiring things like cooling towers at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant and from protecting our coast from overdevelopment and storm surge

* violate the federal Clean Water Act by preventing implementation of clean water programs and bringing permits back to life that have expired because of their impacts on water

* prevent New Jersey from implementing the federal Endangered Species Act and the Wetlands Program

* undermine citizens’ rights to be part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and prevent its implementation

* violate the Federal Emergency Management Act, due to the fact that the bill would allow more development in flood plains, putting more people in harm’s way, and undermine the new maps of the state FEMA has recently developed – this, in turn, could jeopardize flood insurance for New Jersey residents

* interfere with the federal Highway Authority Program, jeopardizing New Jersey’s funding

* prevent the state from implementing CERCLA (the Superfund law) and the Navigable Harbors Act, which may prevent the clean up of dioxin from Newark Bay

Not only does the federal government have agreements with New Jersey to implement these programs, it also provides funding to the state to compensate for the work involved. Violation of these agreements will cost New Jersey tens of millions of dollars, including monies for infrastructure from the Clean Water Revolving Fund.

If the Permit Extension Act is passed, the Sierra Club will be petitioning the Bush Administration to remove all delegated authority and funding from the state of New Jersey. “We would rather have the Bush Administration in charge of the environment in New Jersey than allow this law to go forward because, quite frankly, this law would be worse than anything the Bush Administration has ever tried to do to the state,” concluded Tittel.

##########

Attachment: Letter from the Sierra Club to the EPA

June 9, 2008

The Honorable Alan J. Steinberg Regional Administrator, Region 2 Environmental Protection Agency

290 Broadway New York, NY 10007

Re: New Jersey Permit Extension Act (A2867)

   Dear Mr. Steinberg:

We are writing because we are deeply troubled by recent developments in the New Jersey Legislature with the proposed Permit Extension Act (A2867).

We believe this act will seriously undermine and prevent the state of New Jersey from implementing federally delegated programs and Memorandums of Agreement that the EPA has with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), including the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species Program, Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, RECRA, CERCLA, NEPA and the Wetlands Program.

This act would freeze in place for the next six years all permits approvals and any other administrative decisions at the state and local levels dealing with development and environmental programs. For example, it will freeze in place all NJPDES permits throughout the state of New Jersey for the next six years, which means that New Jersey will not be able to reduce any point source pollution as is required under the recently approved Passaic River TMDL. It will also freeze in place all NFA letters preventing contaminated sites from having to meet new standards for cleanup in violation of RECRA, especially chromium in Jersey City.

The act would prevent the state from implementing any changes in rules and regulations that are mandated by the federal government. It will prevent the state from implementing recent changes in the Safe Drinking Water Act standards and will undermine your efforts to cleanup the dioxin on the Lower Passaic River.

Furthermore, it has a retroactivity clause to January 1, 2006, re-instituting any permits or approvals that have lapsed during that period. Permits for projects will come back to life, such as permits for Route 92, a project with which the EPA has had serious concerns. We believe that this will have a devastating effect on the Meadowlands, bringing back the ENCAP project, which I know EPA has had concerns with.

1. We believe that the EPA needs to address how this legislation affects federal programs and comment on the impact of this law to those federally-delegated programs as your predecessor Jane Kenney did on the Fast Track Law.

2. We believe that the EPA needs to have oversight on this law and any attempt to implement it.

3. If this law is passed, the EPA not only needs to exercise oversight but may have to remove delegation of authority from the state of New Jersey, since the act will be in violation of the Memorandums of Agreement, and remove federal funding for these programs.

This is the fourth time in the last 18 years that the state of New Jersey has attempted to interfere with federal delegation with the two permit extension laws, fast track law and now this law. The New Jersey Legislature cannot be allowed to continue to interfere with Federal environmental programs, and we strongly believe that the EPA needs to intercede. If this act passes, the Sierra Club will formally petition for removal of delegation of authority and all federal funding, including funding from the Federal Highway Authority since the state will be out of compliance with its SIP and will be violating NEPA. We believe that the Bush Administration needs to step forward to protect the people of New Jersey from the New Jersey legislators’ attempts to overturn environmental protections.

Sincerely,

Jeff Tittel Director, New Jersey Sierra Club

Becca Glenn, Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609-656-7612: phone

609-656-7618: fax

image001.jpg

Received on 2008-06-11 12:42:42

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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