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Assembly Passes Two Bills that Threaten the Environment

Date : Mon, 22 Mar 2010 17:06:09 -0400

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Assembly Passes Two Bills that Threaten the Environment

Today the state Assembly passed two bills (S920/A2059 and A2464) that will threaten environmental projections in New Jersey.

S920/A2059 is an undemocratic bill that will take away the rights of local governments to weigh in on development projects that directly impact their communities. The bill was approved by the Senate last month and will now head to the Governor's desk.

The bill eliminates the need for development projects receiving state stimulus monies to obtain local approval. Projects that receive state redevelopment incentive grants will not need approval through local ordinance and cannot be stopped by a referendum. S920/A2059 is a major step backwards for the rights of citizens to determine the future of their communities.

"What we're seeing is not only massive subsidies for developers at the expense of taxpayers but the elimination of citizen's rights to oppose projects that cause overdevelopment, hurt the environment, and bankrupt taxpayers," said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

The Sierra Club believes S920/A2059 bypasses important democratic steps and instead forces development upon residents, who will have no say in the process. Ordinances and referendums are important tools for residents in order to uphold proper planning, protect the environment and natural resources, and safeguard their communities from unnecessary development.

By eliminating the need for development projects to get local approval, the Legislature is undermining a town's ability to determine what's best for their community. The bill leaves municipalities and citizens with no ability to stop projects that will increase traffic, raise property taxes, and jeopardize natural resources.

"Towns and citizens decide when to spend money for open space or school construction but under this bill, they will be stripped of their rights to decide whether or not to spend tens of millions of dollars to subsidize private development," said Tittel. "This turns democracy on its head."

Petitioning the government through referendum is a rarely-used but important democratic tool. Referendums are typically only used when a project is controversial and threatens the environment. This bill will restrict those rights, turning New Jersey into a developer oligarchy.

Towns that have used referendums in the past usually have the benefit of stopping bad projects and encouraging smarter, better developments. The residents of Hoboken used a referendum to stop a very dense waterfront project. Instead, a more balanced project that has public access, parkland, and doesn't block view of river was constructed. In Ringwood, citizens used their rights to a referendum to overwhelmingly vote down sewer access to 1,000 condos on a mountain.

Citizens of Atlantic City have successfully petitioned for a referendum on $300 million in subsidies for a casino. The legislature is trying to take away the citizen's rights to stop that proposal.

The Assembly also passed another bad bill, A2464, which requires all State agency rules be published in the NJ Register and prohibits the use of regulatory guidance documents except under certain circumstances. This bill only adds more red tape to the passage of important environmental regulations.

The Sierra Club is concerned that A2464 will stop or slow down the adoption of rules. The bill is designed to add more red tape and impede changes in environmental rules. "This legislation is part of a pattern of bills to dismantle environmental protections and regulations while giving New Jersey over to polluters and special interests. Under the guide of efficiency, the Legislature is adding more red tape and more bureaucracy with the aim of strangling environmental regulations," Tittel said.

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 2010-03-22 14:06:09

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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