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Budget Takes Aim at the Environment

Date : Mon, 12 Apr 2010 16:21:58 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 12, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Budget Takes Aim at the Environment NJ Sierra Club's Comments on DEP Commissioner Martin's Budget Committee Testimony

Governor Chris Christie's 2011 budget takes aim at the environment and cuts many important programs designed to reduce greenhouse gases, protect the environment, and create green jobs.

"Governor Christie's budget, just like his Executive Orders, will dismantle many key environmental programs in New Jersey. Not only will his budget hurt the environment, it will cost us green jobs," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

Governor Christie has announced that he will cut money for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and $68 million in programs funded by RGGI will be eliminated. RGGI, a compact with multiple states in the Northeast, was established to create programs that reduce the greenhouse gas footprint. Programs help pay for clean energy programs that reduce carbon and create jobs. By slashing this fund, the Governor isn't just hurting the environment, he's robbing money for green jobs.

The budget slashes the Clean Energy Fund by a total of $52 million - $42 million in direct cuts and $10 million in diversions. These cuts will significantly reduce the amount of money available to reimburse residents for solar installations and high efficiency appliances, like furnaces and air conditioners. These cuts to the Clean Energy Fund are on top of the $158 robbed from the fund in FY 2010. The Clean Energy Fund is dedicated by the Legislature, so the Governor's cuts to the fund are a one-shot gimmick.

"When it comes to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gases, this budget shows the Governor is full of hot air," Tittel said. "He keeps taking money away from green jobs and clean energy programs, undermining the environment and costing us jobs as well."

The Governor's budget eliminates the Retail Margin Fund. Just $13.9 million was left in the Retail Margin Fund after a $128 million cut in the FY 2010 budget. The Retail Margin Fund helps businesses to build cogeneration and combined heat and power sources. It helps to build power plants, heat buildings, and produce electricity from natural gas.

The Governor also announced he will slash DEP funding to historic lows. The DEP's operating budget will be cut by $15 million, from $215 million down to $200 million. In just two years, DEP funding has been slashed by about a third - from $277 million down to $200 million. At least $40 million from the DEP budget that comes from fees, fines, and grants will be diverted to the General Fund.

"DEP is at its lowest level of funding in more than 25 years," Tittel said. "There won't be enough people at DEP to issue the permits required to protect public health and the environment and ensure that our economy gets going."

The budget also proposes the complete elimination of state funding for family planning services. Last year, over $7 million was allocated for basic reproductive health care services. We believe it's critical to provide adequate family planning funding, as population growth increases the demand on natural resources and impacts the entire global environment.

The Governor plans to take $15 million from the constitutionally-dedicated CBT (Corporate Business Tax), which traditionally goes to environmental programs that create jobs, like fixing parks or helping towns to do watershed planning to meet stormwater rules. CBT monies also go to retrofit diesel school buses, helping to reduce asthma in children.

This budget reduces funding for the Highlands from $12 million to $4.4 million and cuts direct aid for municipalities in the Highlands and Pinelands by $7.6 million. Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which helps municipalities make up for loss tax revenue when buying open space, will be slashed from $10 million to $6.5 million.

The 2011 budget also calls for the elimination of the Office of Climate Change, taking direct aim at clean energy program and efforts to fight climate change.

This budget cuts environmental planning and forest resource management. Funding for state parks is being cut by 40%. Ten million dollars is being taken from the mitigation for widening of the turnpike for running the parks.

The nonlethal bear management program was eliminated and replaced by a bear hunt. There will be no bear education programs, which will create more nuisance bear problems.

The commissioner talked about one-stop shopping and making the DEP easier for companies and developers, but forgot to mention the environment or the public.

"Polluters and developers were at one time called 'applicants'. Then they were called 'responsible parties'. Now Commissioner Martin wants to call them 'clients'," said Tittel. "Who does DEP work for, the environment and the citizens of New Jersey or polluters?"

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Received on 2010-04-12 13:21:58

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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