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Executive Orders Attack Environmental Protections

Date : Wed, 20 Jan 2010 17:31:55 -0500

For Immediate Release
January 20, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Executive Orders Attack Environmental Protections

On his first full day in office, Governor Chris Christie signed eight Executive Orders. We believe four of them pose a serious threat to environmental protections. These Executive Orders are overly broad and give too much authority for government officials to rollback rules and regulations that protect our air and water and prevent sprawl.

"We are very disappointed that these Executive Orders are written in such a way that they could be used to weaken environmental regulations and protections of health and safety," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "These regulations give too much authority to government officials, who would undo environmental protections in the name of red tape."

Some of the language in the EOs is very similar to the weakening of environmental protections that builders and other special interests have been pushing for. These EOs apply not only to the DEP but also to the Highlands Council, Pinelands Commission, Meadowlands Commission, and the State Planning Commission.

The four Executive Orders that have environmental implications include:

1) Implements a 90 day freeze on environmental regulations and sets up a "red tape" commission. We consider this scary. This is what the Bush Administration did - first they froze regulations and then tried to repeal them. The freeze may violate the Administrative Procedures Act.

2) Authorizes tremendous powers to commissioners to waive compliance with rules and regulations. Under this EO, the DEP or DCA commissioners could waive compliance of rules and regulations that are thought to be an undue burden. This could lead to a serious abuse of power and the ignoring of crucial environmental protections. By waiving penalties and violations, this EO will weaken environmental protections and violate certain environmental laws. It also opens the doors for politics and abuse. This EO also creates a "Time of Decision," which grandfathers an application from the time it is made despite changes in rules or regulations. That means if someone files an application that may not even be complete, that application is bound by the current rules, even though new rules are often put in place to better protect the environment. Additionally, there is a Cost Benefit Analysis for creating rules but health impacts are not part of that analysis. This EO allows violations of rules that are considered burdensome to be waived and calls for the rewriting of these rules. While the EO talks about an appropriate balance when writing rules, it doesn't talk about goals when protecting the environment. It calls for the business community and academia to look at rules in advance but not the environmental community or citizens. It says rules should be flexible and balanced, but the purpose of environmental rules is to protect public health and safety. It calls for justification when state rules exceed a federal requirement but New Jersey is not Kansas and we have more environmental problems than Minnesota.

3) Sets up a committee to review and remove rules that are considered an undue burden to business. The Sierra Club is concerned that the environmental community would not be represented on the committee reviewing the rules. This could simply be a stalking horse to pull back environmental protections. Many of our rules and regulations come from federal or state laws and this EO could interfere with them.

4) Prohibits government programs that are unfunded mandates to towns. We're concerned that mandates that are established for the protection of public health and safety will be subject to this EO. For example, if the standards for the amount of arsenic in drinking water were to change from 10 parts to million down to five, there would be an additional cost to taxpayers for water filtration. This would be considered an unfunded mandate, meaning towns would not have to remove the arsenic to safe levels. Many of our mandates, like stormwater rules, come from the federal government. Will towns not have to follow stormwater rules because it an unfunded mandate?

"We're concerned that parts of these EOs will not only undermine environmental protections but will violate state and federal laws that are designed to protect the environment and public health," Tittel said. "We're troubled that these EOs could become an abuse of power by government officials and agencies. We're also troubled that these EOs may exceed the authority that these officials have, since EOs cannot trump rules, regulations or state and federal laws. We are troubled by what we see in these EOs and need the administration to explain how they will be carried out and what their impacts will be."

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2010-01-20 14:31:55

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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