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Christie's Environmental Record: The First 90 Days

Date : Wed, 21 Apr 2010 12:28:43 -0400

 

For Immediate Release

April 21, 2010

Contact Jeff Tittel: (609)558-9100

                      Christie's Environmental Record: The First 90 Days

As we approach the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and 40 years since the establishment of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Sierra Club is looking at the record of the Christie administration in its first 90 days. We are deeply troubled at how this administration has aggressively gone after environmental protections. While the governor says they want to streamline regulations and will not hurt the environment, the administration has gone out of its way to weaken environmental protections across the board.

"In the governor's first 90 days, he's trying to undo 40 years of environmental protection. If we were going to give this administration a grade, it would be 'D' for dangerous or possibly 'F' for frightening," Jeff Tittel said.

While they say they're for clean energy, they're cutting the clean energy programs and upgrading power lines to bring in more dirty coal energy. While they're cutting services and raising fares on mass transit, they're spending billions to widen highways in the middle of nowhere. While they say they won't weaken environmental protections, we have seen a rollback in protections to our waterways and our drinking water.

"The only thing that this administration has attacked more than the teacher's union has been the environment. In the Christie Administration's first 90 days we have seen an attack on the fundamental concept of protecting the environment and the administration seems bent on weakening protections for public health and safety," said Tittel.

Governor Christie's attacks on the environment began with selection of transition teams comprised of polluters and developers and the entities that are regulated by those agencies. For example, the energy transition team issued a report for the utilities, by the utilities, at the expense of the environment and the health and safety of New Jersey families.

The environment was the first victim of the governor's Executive Orders which pave the way for overdevelopment and sprawl. The EO's give too much authority to agencies and government officials, undermining federal regulations and putting at risk the environment and public health.

The administration set up red tape review and privatizations task forces that are industry dominated and exclude certain environmentalists in order to come up with recommendations to kill environmental protections. They also set up stakeholder meetings which are dominated 3 to 1 by polluters and developers. They can then justify rolling back regulations and protections by this stacked process that has targeted at least 17 environmental rules.

"The Christie Administration's environmental agenda has become the wish list of the developers, polluters and special interests that have been trying to weaken environmental protections since the first Earth Day, 40 years ago," said Tittel.

Governor Christie's budget cuts for FY2010 and proposed cuts for FY2011, put the environment, the economy and the health and safety of New Jersey families all on the chopping block. In the governor's first 90 days, the administration has eliminated more than 600 million in environmental, clean energy and transit programs.

The governor's Executive Orders gave authority to government officials to weaken environmental protections in favor of developers, undermining state and federal regulations.

* EO 1 puts a moratorium on all rules which prevented the implementation of more than 28 environmental rules. * EO 1 moratorium puts on hold the regulation of perchlorate - a drinking water contaminant associated with thyroid disorders. The New Jersey standard for perchlorate is based on sound science and in line with California and Massachusetts. EO 1 puts this by the wayside. * EO 1 also delays the implementation date for lowering sulfur content standards for heating oil. * EO 2 sets forth that no New Jersey rule can be stricter than the federal government's. Most of New Jersey's rules are stricter then the fed's. NJ has a standard of a million-to-one cancer risk for drinking water contaminants. The federal standard is only one in 10,000. * EO 2 also creates a "Time of Decision," which grandfathers an application from the time it is made despite changes in rules or regulations. This may be a violation of federal law. * EO 3 set up a task force to look at government regulations that is made up of all business people and no one from the environmental community. * EO 4 prohibits government programs that are unfunded mandate to towns. This EO could set aside protections for health and public safety because they are considered unfunded mandates. * EO 5 sets up red tape task force whose job is to find more creative ways to weaken protections. Under the guise of red tape, we are seeing a systematic dismantling of environmental programs in the state of New Jersey. * EO 14 slashes funds from clean energy, green jobs, public transit and the DEP, hurting the environment, the economy and New Jersey families. * EO 17 calls for privatization of parks and state forests and consideration has been made to give state forests to lumber companies. * Administrative Order that extends until April 2011 the DEP implementation of Water Quality Management Planning Rules that are more than 13 years in the making

The Christie Administration's FY2010 budget cuts and proposed cuts for FY2011 sacrifice clean energy, the environment and New Jersey families. Gov. Christie's budget diverted dedicated funds that should go for clean energy. This is a hidden form of taxes where money is being diverted from original purpose to fill a hole in the budget.

* The FY2010 budget slashed $158 million from the Clean Energy Fund and the FY2010 cuts an additional $52 million. These cuts will significantly reduce the amount of money available to reimburse residents for solar installations and high efficiency appliances. * The Retail Margin Fund was cut by $128 million in FY2010 and the Fund has been cut by 13 million in the FY2011 budget. The Retail Margin Fund helps businesses to build cogeneration and combined heat and power sources. * The administration's cuts to the DEP put its funding at historic lows. Parks were cut by more than one-third. * The budget eliminated payment in lieu of taxes to communities that have open space. * The Highlands lost $18 million in the FY2010 budget cuts, and the FY2011 budget reduces funding for the Highlands from $12 million to $4.4 million. It also cuts direct aid for municipalities in the Highlands and Pinelands by $7.6 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. * The budget eliminated nonlethal bear management programs including aversion training and education in support of a bear hunt. * New Jersey Transit subsidies were cut, resulting in a record-high fare hike and cuts to bus service. The 22% overall increase in transit fares will strain working families and put more cars on the road, increasing traffic and pollution. The administration kept funding for unnecessarily widening highways in the middle of nowhere, like the one through the Pinelands.

During his first 90 days in office, the governor's decisions have resulted in negative environmental consequences from all directions.

* Approval of the Susquehanna-Roseland power line upgrade project to replace 80-foot towers with 195-foot towers to import dirty coal energy through the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area * DEP Commissioner Martin waffled on Barnegat Bay and the need to put in cooling towers at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant * The BPU decision to allow development of Holly Farm, one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the state * Approval of the first bear hunt since 2004 and only the second hunt in 40 years

There are several proposals on the table that will weaken environmental protections, promote sprawl, and jeopardize public health and safety.

* Limiting or getting rid of the Landscape Project, the goal of which is to protection New Jersey's biological diversity, for use in rules * Stakeholder meetings and hand-picking a group of environmentalists and industry representatives to weaken environmental standards * 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 * Reopening Highlands Rules or eliminating Highlands Council * 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 * Red Tape task force recommendations to give the DEP commissioner authority to readopt and change rules without public comment, undermining the public process * Red Tape recommendations to give the office of the Secretary of State authority over planning and development in areas such as the Highlands and the Pinelands * Lengthen time of rules from 5 years to 7 years which will have a direct affect on public health * Expansion of Council on Local Mandates, giving more power to nullify standards and regulations which have been put in place to protect public health and safety as well as the environment * The Red Tape task force recommended the review and potential repeal or weakening of 17 environmental rules including flood hazard, stream buffers, contaminated site cleanup, beach access, Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, clean air, Title 5 permits and others * Red Tape review wants to eliminate the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, which is an important for people that live in areas of New Jersey that share a disproportionate amount of pollution The governor's budget has stripped away important environmental programs on clean energy, parks and transit and the Sierra Club is concerned that this is just the beginning. In the next 90 days the administration will be going after environmental protections that are targeted by the transition team, the Red Tape Group and the privatization task force. This will also be the time when they are going to begin to implement the Executive Orders. The Sierra Club does support Gov. Christie for his handling of the Delaware deepening proposal and his resistance to the Linden coal plant. The Administration moved forward with the lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers proposal to dredge Delaware River. Although he has not taken any action, the governor has spoken out in opposition to the Linden coal plant proposal by PurGen. Both of these projects are a threat to the environment and public health and the Sierra Club is pleased that the governor has shown opposition to them. In addition, we are hearing that some frozen rules such as the sulfur standard, phosphorous and green buildings may be going forward.

"We are facing the biggest challenges that we have faced in the last 40 years when it comes to environmental protections. The Christie Administration is on a juggernaut to go after environmental rules and the protections of public safety and the environment that those rules represent. As we celebrate the DEP's 40th anniversary, next year there may not be a DEP or many of the environmental protections that are important for the people of New Jersey," Jeff Tittel said.

Christine Guhl Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 Tel: (609) 656-7612 Fax: (609) 656-7618 christine.guhl_at_sierraclub.org

Received on 2010-04-21 09:28:43

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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