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NJEF Fed Up?

Date : Thu, 03 May 2012 13:06:49 -0400

For Immediate Release
May 3, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

NJEF Fed Up?

Sierra Club Statement on NJEF Scorecard

Today the New Jersey Environmental Federation, which endorsed Governor Christie, released a scorecard on the Governor's performance on environmental issues. Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club issued the following statement in response:

"We are glad the Federation has finally been willing to publically criticize the Governor with the release of their score card today. However it's long overdue, in fact two years overdue. This Governor has done more damage to environmental protections and is attempting to do more than any Governor in state history. In fact, today instead of listening to what the Environmental Federation that endorsed him has to say, Governor Christie is delivering a keynote address at a Koch Brothers education forum. That says it all".

"What grade should the Federation give themselves in standing up to Christie and standing up to protect the environment? From the Governor's first day in office with Executive Order (EO) 1, Christie started to dismantle environmental protections. This was followed by EO 2, the transformation of the DEP, being a skeptic on climate change, calling the Highlands a 'lie', pulling out of RGGI, and the list goes on. The Sierra Club identified 50 environmental attacks in Christie's first 100 days. Where was the Federation? When EO 1 came out the environmental community was alarmed it would be used to freeze rules and dismantle protections. The Federation stated the Governor had a right to look at the rules. When these other weakenings were happening their silence was deafening. Or they offered their tacit support by saying 'wait and see what the outcomes will be'. When the Governor conditional vetoed a bill setting up a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for pollution entering the Barnegat Bay, the Federation supported the move. They have at times been critical of the DEP or parts of the administration but have not done an overall look at what the Governor has been doing until now."

"Even now giving the Governor a D when he is trying to dismantle every core environmental program in the state shows the Federation still has not figured it out. Are they marking the Governor on a curve? Even as late as November of last year the Federation was supporting the Governor's park privatization plan. The question is, is this awakening more because the Governor did not meet with them and is dissing them, since the facts have been obvious for years about Christie's agenda. Will the Federation actually withdraw their endorsement or say their endorsement was a mistake?"

"The Federation is not the only group that has been silent. Many other groups have allowed Christie to get away with his wholesale weakening of environmental protections either through silence or giving him cover on smaller issues such as supporting a budget that actually weakens environmental protections". We believe the Governor deserves an F and here is a partial list of reasons why:

Pulling out of RGGI Governor Christie folded to corporate polluters and Tea Party conservatives and announced that New Jersey will be pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a ten state compact to reduce climate change pollution.

Energy Master Plan The Governor released an Energy Master Plan that rolls back the state's renewable energy standards from 30% of our energy by 2020 to 22.5%. The plan also guts clean energy funding, increases our dependence on fracking and non-conventional fossil fuels, and calls for more nuclear. The Governor's policies have caused the price of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to drop, almost causing the market to crash.

Raids on Clean Energy Funding The Governor is taking $210 million out of the Clean Energy Fund for this year's budget. This money is supposed to be dedicated to energy efficiency, weatherization, and renewable energy, and the Governor is taking this money to give a tax cut to millionaires. The fund gets between $240-260 million a year and the Governor is taking almost all of it. This fund comes from a small fee on our energy bill that is supposed to be dedicated to these clean energy programs. This not only hurts the environment but consumers. The Governor also diverted money for the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to make up for the loss of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) money for combined heat and power. $52 million was already diverted in the FY2012 totaling $107 million taken this year.

State Strategic Plan The Governor's State Strategic Plan will turn New Jersey over to developers. In its current form the Strategic Plan violates the State Planning Act, the Highlands Act and the Pinelands Act. This plan is being used to override environmental regulations as well as regional planning. The Plan channels growth into environmentally sensitive areas and undermines redevelopment of our existing cities and towns. Instead, it promotes sprawl and overdevelopment in our last remaining open spaces, which will mean more flooding, more pollution in water ways, more traffic and higher property taxes.

Not Supporting Important EPA Air Quality Protections Governor Christie did not sign onto litigation to support EPA rules to clean up coal plants as well as our air. The Cross State Air Pollution rules require coal-producing states to our west to lower their toxic emissions. The rule had the support of PSE&G, Exelon, NJ Chamber of Commerce, and a number of health and environmental groups. Instead of supporting the rule that would address emissions across the country, Governor Christie wants to go after plants one at a time, this will waste taxpayer money and result in long fought cases tied up in the courts instead of actual reductions in air pollutants.

Attacks on the Highlands Region Over the past two years we have seen Governor Christie appoint individuals to the Highlands Council that have spoken out publically against Highlands protections and have challenged the science behind the Regional Master Plan. The Governor took these attacks a step further this year by orchestrating the ouster of the Council's Executive Director and installing the head of the Morris County Freeholder Board as the replacement in a political sweetheart deal. The Governor's State Strategic Plan and the Executive Order implementing it undermines the Council's planning authority in the Highlands by requiring the Regional Master Plan to conform to the Strategic Plan's economic goals and declaring the Highlands Existing Community Zone a growth area that should receive sewers.

Barnegat Bay Continues to Deteriorate Conditions in the Barnegat Bay get worse while the Governor is weakening protections for the watershed. In the past year he vetoed two important bills to clean up stormwater runoff entering the Bay. His administration did not require Oyster Creek to install cooling towers, instead allowing the plant to operate for another 10 years, destroying the Bay with superheated pollution. A legal ruling in January could possibly invalidate the deal as the court ruled federal laws regulating nuclear power plants trump state laws. The Barnegat Bay is the second most eutrophied Bay in the nation and action must be taken now to better protect it.

Privatization of State Parks The Governor's budget signals there will be even more privatization of our Parks. Increased revenue in our parks will come from charging more to use boat ramps, park, and use swimming areas, allowing more vendors, and other activities. We are concerned that our State Parks will be turned over to private hands, shutting off public access, increasing costs, and cutting services. The amount of land, buildings, and facilities the Parks Department oversees is going up while staffing continues to decline. Instead of investing in our parks, the Christie administration is using this as an excuse to try to privatize our parks.

DEP Stakeholder Meetings The DEP has been holding "stakeholder" meetings where important water quality regulations are being rewritten by special interests. The Stormwater Management regulations are being rewritten to weaken protections for headwaters, 300 foot buffers and recharge areas. The nitrate dilution model is being weakened to add more development in environmentally sensitive areas. The models are an important tool in protecting ground water and streams from pollution. The buffers and fill limitations in the Flood Hazard Area rules are being rolled back. Even though most counties have submitted water quality management plans that comply with the 2008 Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) Rules,the DEP is delaying their implementation force more development and add more sewers in environmentally sensitive areas.

Waiver Rule lets Polluters and Developers Avoid Enviro Regs The DEP published its waiver rule that will create loopholes and open environmental protections to political abuse and pay-to-play negotiations for polluters and developers. The rule allows the Commissioner of the DEP to waive virtually any section of any rule. 98 existing rules can be waived, impacting hundreds of permits. A coalition of over 25 environmental groups are challenging the rule in court.

Beach Access Rules Close Waterways to Public The DEP has proposed revised beach access rules that impede our right to access our own waterways, which belong to all of us. Following public hearings substantial changes were made to the rules. Two additional hearings on the updated rules but these were held before the DEP responded to comments made at the previous hearing on the original rule proposal. These rules put the thing that we love most about living in New Jersey, accessing our beaches and waterways, at risk.

Delaying Sulfur Rule The DEP delayed implementation of the Sulfur Rule by at least one year in response to requests by Hess Corporation. The rule would lower the sulfur content for all fuels to 500 parts per million and for #2 heating oils and lighter fuel oils to 15 parts per million.

Rollbacks to Water Quality The Christie administration supported legislation to delay important Water Quality Management Planning regulations by two years and substantially weakens these regulations that are critical for preventing sprawl and overdevelopment. This delay will give the administration time rewrite county sewer maps to allow more development.

Bailing Out the Xanadu Mega Mall The Governor has offered hundreds of millions in corporate welfare to the Xanadu megamall while pushing through its permits.

Fracking in New Jersey The Governor conditionally vetoed a bill banning fracking passed by the Legislature to a weak one year moratorium. As a member of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), New Jersey has pushed to adopt rules to allow natural gas drilling through fracking in the Basin, threatening the drinking water for 15 million people. The Christie administration even threatened to withhold funding for the DRBC if the rules were not adopted within a certain timeframe.

Rolling Back Standards on Toxic Sites The DEP proposed regulations to implement the privatization of the cleanup of our toxic sites. The rules hand more authority over to Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) hired by the owners and polluters to conduct clean ups on their property. With over 20,000 contaminated sites in the state, virtually all residents will be affected by the weakening of cleanup standards proposed in these rules.

Dropped out of Ozone Lawsuit Governor Christie dropped out of a lawsuit, the State of Mississippi v. EPA, that chalelnges the EPA's strict ozone standards. New Jersey was absent from briefs in the lawsuit. The preliminary standard for ozone is 75 ppb, but this case aims to lower it to 60 to 70 ppb. New Jersey would have joined 12 other states petitioning the EPA to set the national ambient air quality standards to a level that would protect human health. Withdrawing undercuts the ability for the other states to win the lawsuit and the ability of EPA to come up with better standards to protect us from ozone pollution.

SREC Low Solar renewable energy certificates (SRECS) in New Jersey have dropped to their lowest amount, trading for less than $100. The spot market dropped below $100 and the average in April was $135. This same time last year SRECs were being traded for $655. This dramatic decrease is due in part to the failed policies of the Christie administration to help keep the solar industry in our state afloat. Governor Christie has slashed funding for solar rebates, has pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and has lowered the Renewable Portfolio Standard in our state from 30% to 22.5%.

"We hope that the Federation and the other environmental groups, instead of being worried about attending stakeholder meetings, are willing to stake out a strong position against the Governor's agenda. Hopefully we will be able to unite and stop the Governor's environmental rollbacks," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
Received on 2012-05-03 10:06:49

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