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Environmental Attacks in Lame Duck

Date : Tue, 10 Jan 2012 16:16:28 -0500

For Immediate Release
January 10, 2012 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Environmental Attacks in Lame Duck Wrap Up of Bills from Yesterday

One of the most important Legislative sessions when it comes to the environment concluded yesterday. A day that started out as one of most anti-environmental days in the history of the legislature ended with many bad bills passing. But we did have a few small victories along the way. Overall this was one of the worst days with the passage of the dirty water bill and weakening of the fracking ban bill, and other roll backs. The morning began with the appointment of an outspoken opponent of the Highlands Act to the Highlands Council. We did have a couple small wins with solar energy financing and oil spill liability, defeated a bill to allow logging on public lands and stopping the permit extension bill from being posted. Some bills that should have moved did not, including legislation to keep New Jersey in RGGI and a resolution opposing the DEP's dangerous Waiver Rule.

"This was one of the worst legislative days we have ever had. Bills that effect every area of the environment were up. Some were passed, but others we were able to stop. We are going to see some major roll backs of protections for the environment when it comes to water quality, the Highlands, clean energy and the public's right to access government. There were a few highlights on an otherwise bleak day," said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. Dirty Water Bill Guts Water Quality Protections The full Senate and Assembly approved dangerous legislation that would delay and circumvent critical protections for water quality. A4335/S3156 which delays the implementation of the state's Water Quality Management Planning rules for up to two years will now go to Governor Christie's desk with two of the most dangerous sections still in place: Sewer service extensions will be allowed in areas without treatment capacity and approvals can move forward with only partial wastewater management plans in place. These were the two components of the bill the EPA had the biggest concern with and the Sierra Club will be petitioning the EPA to remove delegation for Water Quality Planning from New Jersey and have federal direct oversight on New Jersey water programs restored. Because this bill violates the Clean Water Act, the EPA not only has the authority to remove delegation and permitting from the state of New Jersey when it comes to water, they can also block millions in grants for infrastructure.

"The Legislature put taking care of special interests before protecting the drinking water for New Jersey residents. This legislation was passed at the expense of water quality, the environment, and public health," said Jeff Tittel.

Legislature Caves to Governor on Weak Fracking Bill

Instead of overriding the Governor's conditional veto of the fracking ban bill, the Legislature voted to concur with the Governor's meaningless one year moratorium. The Legislature failed to protect New Jersey's drinking water because the Governor's weak one year moratorium does nothing to protect our water supply from future drilling of natural gas in the Delaware River Basin. The Legislature's vote to concur with the one year moratorium undercuts getting the ban on fracking in place in the future, threatening the drinking water for almost 3 million New Jersey residents.

"Instead of posting the Fracking Ban bill for an override to protect New Jersey's water supply and environment, the Legislature would rather appease Governor Christie and the natural gas companies. Concurring with Governor Christie's conditional threatens the drinking water supply for millions of New Jersey residents and potentially opens up a large area of north western New Jersey for fracking in the future," said Jeff Tittel.

Tea Party Bill Hurts the Environment The Senate passed S1336 (Sarlo), legislation expanding the scope of the Regulatory Flexibility Act which would undermine rulemaking and environmental regulation. This legislation makes it harder for agencies to propose and adopt rules and regulations that protect the environment, public health, and safety. This bill comes from American Legislative Exchange Council and is part of Governor Christie's Red Tape review.

"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 guise of efficiency, the Legislature is adding more ways to undermine environmental regulations threatening our environment," Tittel said Logging on Public Lands Bill Held A bill that would have opened our state parks up to commercial logging operations did not move in the Assembly. S1954 (Smith) received significant opposition from a Coalition of ecologists, land restoration experts, environmental groups, and community activists. The bill would have allowed for logging in some of the most sensitive areas and sites on our public lands, and did not address the key issues impacting the health of our forests, deer overabundance and invasive species.

"Defeating this bill is an important win in protecting our parks. Our parks are held in the public trust and are held to a higher standard- one that does not include commercial logging operations," said Jeff Tittel. Permit Extension Held The Permit Extension Act did not move in the Lame Duck session after significant opposition from environmental groups. The proposed legislation was even worse than similar previous measures because it included the Highlands and Pinelands. The Dracula Clause in the bill would have allowed projects that have been expired to move forward.

"The only purpose of this bill is to take care of developers and special interests and we are glad the Legislature did not move forward with this legislation," said Jeff Tittel.

Bad Wind Power Bill Defeated A bill that would have allowed for wind farms on preserved farms in Salem and Cumberland counties with virtually no environmental standards, A3992/S2887, died last night after a conditional veto by the Governor. The Governor made the bill more protective by removing preserved farms from the bill, increasing the acreage required per windmill, and increasing the local approvals required. The Legislature did not concur with the Governor's conditional veto.

"The New Jersey Sierra Club supports wind development, but we believe that construction of wind generation projects should be properly regulated no matter where they are placed and this bill would have removed those environmental reviews and standards," said Jeff Tittel. Challenge to Governor's DEP Waiver Rule Does Not Move An important resolution opposing the Christie administration's environmental weakenings SCR239 (Buono) did not pass during Lame Duck. The resolution declared the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Waiver Rule inconsistent with Legislative intent. The Waiver Rule is one of the most anti-environmental rules that have ever been proposed and this resolution was one of the key tools to stopping its adoption.

"The Legislature took the side of polluters and developers over the people of New Jersey. The Waiver Rule is one of the worst regulations ever proposed in New Jersey. We needed the Legislature to block this rule from going forward but they have put politics before the best interests of New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel. Bills to Keep NJ in RGGI Stalled A bill and resolution in response to Governor Christie's announcement that New Jersey would be leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), did not move during Lame Duck. A4108 (McKeon/Chivukula) would have prohibited New Jersey from leaving RGGI and resolution ACR195 would have affirmed the Legislature's support of and commitment to RGGI. Leaving RGGI will cause New Jersey to lose jobs and increase pollution in New Jersey's air.

"The Sierra Club is disappointed the Legislature has not fought to keep New Jersey in RGGI. Leaving the program jeopardizes our environment and green economy," said Jeff Tittel.

Bills to Save Solar Program Die in Lame Duck Two bills that would have improved the market for solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) died in Lame Duck. The bills would have bolstered the solar market after all the Governor's cuts to clean energy programs. A3731 would have extended SREC to 15 years or longer, making solar more viable and making securing financing easier. A4226 would have changed the definition of solar installations that can be eligible for SRECs to increase the benefits for small solar operations and homeowners.

"These bills would have helped keep New Jersey's solar program robust and helped us meet our long term goals for solar energy. Without this legislation, the solar market will continue to face real challenges as Governor Christie continues to undermine solar energy funding mechanisms and calls for roll backs to our clean energy goals" said Tittel.

Bill to Restore Clean Energy Goals Dies in Assembly

After passing the Senate, S3032 (Smith), was held up by the Assembly. The bill would have increased our renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements under the "Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act," keeping in place the goals of the 2008 Energy Master Plan. The bill would have required New Jersey to have at least 30% of its electricity produced by renewable energy by 2020.

"This bill would have helped ensure New Jersey's clean energy future and would have moved our state forward environmentally and economically. Instead of a victory for clean energy, the Legislature is caving in to the Governor's environmental roll backs," said Jeff Tittel. Our Coast is Protected from Oil Spills

The Senate passed S2108, a bill that raises the liability cap for damages from offshore oil spills from $65 million to $1 billion. This bill is desperately needed, given that the old liability cap was passed in 1976 and now this ensures New Jersey would be properly compensated if there was an oil spill off our coast. With the threat of drilling in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region, an accident that would damage our shores could become a reality and we must be protected. This bill is now headed to Governor Christie's desk.

"Raising the liability cap will have the polluters paying the bill instead of the taxpayers," said Jeff Tittel. "We believe this bill is important in protecting our coasts from oil spills because if companies know they'll have to pay for damages, they may do things in a safer way."

Clean Energy Funding- PACE An important solar energy financing mechanism passed the Legislature after being conditionally vetoed by the Governor. A2502 (Chivukula), which establishes the "New Jersey Property Assessment Clean Energy (NJ PACE) Municipal Financing Program," will provide loans to homeowners for solar projects. Towns would apply to the BPU and then would be eligible to borrow renewable energy funding for local property owners. Since Governor Christie has diverted money from the BPU's Clean Energy Fund, eliminated solar rebates for homeowners, and has proposed overhauling the Societal Benefits Charge in his revised Energy Master Plan, the funding provided in this law is very important at this time.

"We need this law now more than ever since it provides a common sense program that will create jobs while helping to revive our solar industry," said Jeff Tittel.

"Even though we were able to stop some bad bills, we are afraid we will see more days like this in the Legislature in the future. This is just the beginning of Governor Christie trying to move his anti-environmental agenda through the Legislature with the help of some special interest-controlled, pro-polluter Democrats," said Jeff Tittel.

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618 Received on 2012-01-10 13:16:28

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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