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Assembly Passes Important Environmental Bills

Date : Fri, 25 May 2012 12:49:28 -0400

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Assembly Passes Important Environmental Bills On Thursday the Assembly passed a number of important bills related to the environment, including a resolution to pull down the Governor's Waiver Rule and to keep New Jersey in a program to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. Bills we supported that passed:

Legislators Stand Up to Christie's Waiver Rule The Legislature took action again to stop Governor Chrisite's DEP waiver rule.The Assembly passed ACR-37 (Barnes) 47 to 31.This resolution declares the 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 is needed to stop its adoption. By advancing this resolution, the members of the committee have stood up to developers and polluters better protect the environment and public health for the people of New Jersey.

"Today the Legislature took an important step in the protection of the environment in the state of New Jersey. The Waiver Rule is one of the worst and most destructive DEP rules ever written. This rule gives the DEP Commissioner full control to take the side of polluters, developers, and special interest over the health, safety, and the environment for the people of New Jersey. This effects every place in New Jersey from High Point to Cape May and every aspect of the environment from clean air, clean water, open space, and toxic clean ups.The Legislature needs to use the oversight process to block this rule for going forward," said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club.

Keep NJ in RGGI

The Assembly approved a bill that would require New Jersey to continue participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a ten state regional compact to reduce climate change and air pollution and fund clean energy projects.The Governor announced last year that New Jersey would not take part in the carbon auctions but *A1998 *(McKeon/Chivukula) would prohibit New Jersey from leaving. Exiting the program, as Governor Christie has called for, will cause New Jersey to lose jobs and increase pollution in New Jersey's air. What the Governor has done is the height of arrogance.He is exceeding the legislative intent by pulling out of RGGI without the input of the public or the Legislature. This legislation has now passed both houses and is headed for the Governor's desk.

"The Sierra Club applauds the Assembly for passing this important bill that will keep New Jersey in RGGI.We need the Legislature to protect New Jersey's environment and green economy and to prevent the Governor from pulling out of RGGI and abandoning the funding from RGGI," said *Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club*.

Holding the Port Authority Accountable The Assembly passed legislation that would hold the Port Authority accountable and rein in their frivolous spending. *A1011, *the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency Act, will require that the Port Authority be required to undergo independent auditing and other financial reports as well as required hearings regarding any toll or fare hikes. Given the information found in the audit this legislation is absolutely necessary. This legislation will require this agency to be held accountable, become more transparent, and to look into what is really needed. A1247 (Moriarty) will look into the perks and benefits of Port Authority employees by placing restrictions on employment, gifts, and compensation. These would include restrictions regarding use of company vehicles, exemptions in payment of the tolls, travel expenses, credit card usage, and gifts. As seen in the audit the Port Authority has been paying out millions in overtime and excessive salaries. This legislation will help to curb this unnecessary spending by monitoring and restricting the spending and perks the Port Authority gives to their employees.

"These pieces of legislation are important as part of the attempt to rein in this agency. The Port Authority is becoming a privately run wasting millions of public dollars all the while expecting the public to give them more and more money. They think they work for themselves not the people and these bills will help to address some of the problems within the Port Authority," *said Jeff Tittel.

Help Fund Meadowlands

A2504 (Prieto)provides for voluntary contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns for the Meadowlands Conservation Trust. This legislation is important because it helps to raise funds to protect the Meadowlands, which is a vital ecosystem consisting of sensitive wetlands and habitat that needs to be protected. This legislation is a small but important step forward in protecting the Meadowlands because it helps raise funds.The Meadowlands are an urban oasis and a vital ecosystem that need to be protected.

"This is a small step forward in helping to protect the Meadowlands from overdevelopment and to help preserve open space and wetlands," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Protect Tigers**

A2200 (Chivikula) imposes certain registration and reporting requirement to prevent illegal trade of tigers. This legislation creates a registration system through the Department of Environmental Protection of all tigers that are in New Jersey to ensure that no tigers are entered into an illegal tiger trade. A microchip, which is put into each tiger holds various information about the tiger. The illegal trade of exotic animals such as tigers has been a long standing abuse and we believe this legislation helps to end some of this abuse.

"We need to make sure that we help protect tigers here in New Jersey.This legislation will not only help stop the illegal trade in tigers and tiger parts, but more importantly will prevent a disaster like the one that happened in Ohio, when the tiger escaped, from happening here," said Jeff Tittel. Bills we opposed that passed:

Attack on Pollution Prevention

A1534 (Burzichelli) This bill would require DEP to study the Pollution Prevention Act, a law that helps reduce toxins in our environment and creates pollution prevention programs.There is not enough money in the proposed bill to spend all the time and work it will take to implement the bill. Even though this bill calls for a study it seems to be designed with only one outcome in mind: to repeal or pull back the Pollution Prevention Act. The New Jersey Sierra Club believes this legislation is another attack on environmental regulations and protections. The Pollution Prevention Act does yearly reports that are already available. This program complements the existing programs like Right to Know and Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act.Over the years this has significantly reduced the amount of toxins released and has helped protect workers in facilities and communities around them. This was a hallmark piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Lesniak. There have been ongoing efforts by many toxic polluters to try to repeal the Pollution Prevention Act since it was passed.

"This is part of the ongoing assault against environmental protection in the state of New Jersey through so called red tape attacks on the environment.It seems the Legislature's agenda is to take the side of the polluters and special interests over the people of New Jersey and public health," Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club.

Stopping Unneeded Program: Forgives Technical Violations**

A2584(Ramos) Requires the DEP to allow for correction of technical and administrative permit application violations. This legislation is not needed since there are already enough programs in place to waive away violations or look the other way including the Self Disclosure Rule, Grace Period Rule, and Dispute Rule.

"This is part of the further weakening of environmental protections and enforcement by letting polluters off the hook for technical or administrative violations.It is also unnecessary given all the other loopholes," said Jeff Tittel.

Weakening Protections for Watershed Lands

A1527 (Burzichelli) This bill streamlines applications to the Watershed Review Board for diversions.It allows the diversion of lands that are protected under the Watershed Moratorium for other purposes.We are concerned this bill will be used to streamline applications to put power lines and gas lines through environmental sensitive watershed lands.

"We should be making it more difficult to divert watershed lands, not streamlining the process.We should be making sure that these lands held under the Watershed Moratorium stay protected to maintain the health of our watersheds and water supplies," said Jeff Tittel.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2012-05-25 09:49:28

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