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Transition Team Environment Report Attacks Environment

Date : Fri, 22 Jan 2010 15:08:18 -0500

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Transition Team Environment Report Attacks Environment

The report released today by the Christie Administration Environmental Transition Team is an outright attack on environmental protections and regulations, as well as an assault on the public health and safety of the people of New Jersey.

While the report begins by addressing regulatory reform and promoting the modernization of the DEP, the heart of it reveals plans to weaken important environmental protections, expedite permitting for special interests, and relax standards for toxic site cleanup.

"If this report is implemented, the DEP will stand for "Destroying Environmental Protections," said Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director. "This report was written for the most part by special interests for special interests. It not only calls for a weakening of environmental regulations, but really is an outright assault on important protections for the people of New Jersey."

While the Sierra Club believes the DEP must be modernized, made more transparent, and work more efficiently, the solutions in the Transition Team's report will not accomplish that goal and will only lead to a dangerous backsliding in environmental protections.

The report calls for a repeal of both the landscape project, which protects endangered species habitats, as well as the public access rules. Additionally, it advocates for the weakening of important protections like Stream Buffers, Water Quality Management Planning, C1 Rules, Stormwater Rules, Wetlands Rules, Flood Hazard Rules, Water Quality, and the Natural Resource Damage Protections. It also calls for a weakening of standards for toxic site cleanups.

It appears that all of the special interests that helped draft the report got something in return. The builders got weakening of land use protections and the polluters got a relaxation of cleanup standards. Even the lobbyists representing quarries got something. Instead of a transition report, the document reads like a deal or no deal, with most of the deals going to the polluters and developers that sat on the subcommittee.

Some of the specific recommendations in the report include:

* Establish "Permits by Rules," which essentially means automatic approvals for certain activity. * Create a "Business Ombudsmen" (lobbyist) in DEP to push out permits for developers at the expense of taxpayers. * Develop a single land use permit that would apply to all developments, allowing the process to bypass an enhanced environmental review regardless of the natural resources that may be impacted. * Transfer some permitting authority from DEP to the local government jurisdictions. It is evident, with all of the mayors who have been indicted recently, that such a system would not work and would be subject to abuse and corruption. * Create an office to dispute resolutions, which could be used to give out bad permits or weaken enforcement of environmental regulations. * Delegate land use permitting of Brownfields sites to the Site Remediation Program, which means outside consultants with no expertise in the field of land use or natural resources will be filling wetlands. * Weaken the Division of Science even further and do away with the Office of Policy. * Implement an Office of Economic Analysis, which won't consider public health and safety or the secondary impacts of flooding or additional water treatment. * Ignore current standards for the cleanup of toxic sites and groundwater, paving the way for even more Dupont Sites like the one in Pompton Lakes and chromium problems like those in Jersey City. * Weaken standards for the use of Class B recycled materials, which contain lead, asbestos, and arsenic. * Recommend more privatization of parks and forestry, leading to the potential for logging on state lands.

At the same time the Transition Team says they want to streamline the DEP, they make it clear they want to add burdensome requirements to the Division of Science. They say they want reform, but are simply trying to make it tougher if not impossible to add new programs that protect the environment.

We agree with a few suggestions included in the report. Adding more people to the Environmental Crimes Bureau within the Division of Justice would be a benefit. There is no longer an Environmental Crimes Bureau and it would be nice to see it reestablished. The development of a system that prioritizes permitting would be a good thing. Creating one office to do all of the acquisitions for Green Acres land would make buying open space more efficient. Upgrading technology in the DEP is critical.

We also agree that fee revenue should stay within the programs that collect them. A hierarchal approach to permitting would be beneficial and could ensure, for example, that water would go to a hospital before a golf course.

"Transition reports usually come up with ideas to help make the department work better," Tittel said. "There are some important ideas in this report, but they are simply masking what is at the heart of it - a weakening of environmental protections and an attack on public health and safety under the guise of reform."

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 2010-01-22 12:08:18

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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