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Budget Used to Weaken Environmental Protections

Date : Tue, 27 Apr 2010 16:40:16 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 27, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Budget Used to Weaken Environmental Protections

The FY2011 budget combed with the red tape task force, the privatization task force, the governor's Executive Orders and Administrative Order have declared war on the environment. It cuts many important programs designed to reduce greenhouse gases, create green jobs, and curb climate change.

"If you look at the cumulative impact of everything the governor is doing, he is trying to dismantle many imperative environmental protections that are important to the people of New Jersey. When you add up the budget along with the EO's and AO, and reorganizing DEP, you will see that this will eliminate key environmental programs leading to more sprawl, more toxins and more pollution," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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.

"The re-organization plan for DEP is the special interest wish list for changing DEP. They are weakening the offices that do policy, science and environmental review while creating new offices to act as lobbyists for polluters and developers. They have put planning under permitting to make sure DEP is a rubber stamp for developers and polluters. This re-organization plan implements many of the Red Tape Review Panels recommendation like one-stop shopping that leaves out environmental review, and setting up a stakeholder process to weaken or eliminate rules that protect our air and water. While cutting the DEP Budget for environmental protects and parks, they are adding upper level staff to do economic analyses and development which are not part of the DEP core mission or its enabling legislation. Instead of issuing the permit for cooling towers at Oyster Creek they will stakeholder it to death. Under this plan DEP now calls the companies that they regulate 'clients', so DEP works for the polluters not the public," Tittel said.

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 cuts environmental planning and forest resource management. Funding for state parks is being cut by 40%. The budget is also taking $10 million dedicated to replace trees removed for widening of the turnpike and parkway 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.

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.

The Red Tape Review Group recommended the elimination of the Environmental Justice Board, which protects low-income communities from bearing a disproportionate share of pollution.

The stakeholder process has been set up to review clean air, endangered species, toxic cleanup, water quality planning rules, and a host of other environmental regulations with minimal representation from the environmental community.

"The budget and the economy are being used an excuse to weaken environmental protections. This is nothing but a cynical manipulation to justify their anti-environmental agenda. Many of the cuts that they're making will actually cost green jobs in the private sector and will make it harder for business to get permits so they can expand as the economy improves. This budget is just part of the overall attempt of the Christie Administration to get rid of 40 years of environmental protections on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day," 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 2010-04-27 13:40:16

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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