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Senate Does Not Stop Waiver Rule, Passes Anti-Enviro Pro-Developer Bills Instead<h1> Date : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 11:39:33 -0400

Pro-Developer Bills Instead

For Immediate Release
July 19, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Senate Does Not Stop Waiver Rule, Passes Anti-Enviro/ Pro-Developer Bills Instead * The DEP will begin considering waiver requests this August as the Senate refused to stop the weakening of 40 years of environmental protections.The DEP Waiver Rule would allow the DEP Commissioner to waive compliance with over 120 agency regulations and programs for polluters and developers.The proposed Waiver Rule would create loopholes and open environmental protections to political abuse and pay-to-play negotiations for polluters and developers. The Legislature could have blocked the rule by passing an oversight resolution, calling on the DEP to either re-write the rule or pull it down completely.The Assembly passed the resolution back in March but the measure stalled in the Senate which approved anti-environmental bills and bills that subsidize development such as Permit Extension over protecting our environmental standards.

"The Democrats in the Senate refused to stand up and stop one of the worst and most destructive DEP rules ever written.Instead their priorities this year have been environmental rollbacks like Permit Extension, logging on state land, and delaying the Water Quality Management Plans.The Senate is taking the side of polluters, developers, and special interest over the health, safety, and the environment for the people of New Jersey," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club*."The Waiver Rule will affect 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 resolutionSCR59 (Buono) would have declared the Waiver Rule inconsistent with Legislative intent and would have given DEP 30 days to make changes or rescind the rule.After action by the DEP the Legislature could pass the resolution again stopping the Waiver Rule from moving forward. The waiver rule was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing, corporate-backed think tank that writes pro-polluter legislation.The adopted DEP Waiver Rule was virtually verbatim from an ALEC bill.This did not come from concerns of New Jersey business, citizens, or local governments, this came from the Koch brothers and polluters.The stakeholder process on this rule was a sham because the DEP never changed the original ALEC wording. The waiver rule weakens environmental protections by allowing:

 * Morehouses to be built, promoting sprawl and allowing destruction of     more critical natural resources   * Waivers for enforcement violations and fines, letting polluters off     the hook.   * Waivers to be used to resolve a contested case or dispute   * Development on threatened and endangered species habitat   * Costs to be included in "burdensome"   * 98 existing rules can be waived. Instead of posting the Waiver Rule Resolution, the Senate has been passing legislation that puts the interests of developers and polluters before the environment and public health such as allowing private colleges to evade local approvals and the Permit Extension Act.

Permit Extension Act The Permit Extension Act, passed 35 to 1 with 4 abstentions, enables developers to ignore updated environmental laws, public health standards, building codes, and local zoning changes.Developer permits will be extended until 2014.This legislation is even worse than previous rounds because it includes the Highlands and Pinelands regions and the "Dracula Clause," which would bring back bad projects where permits and approvals have already expired.Senator Greenstein was the only Senator to vote against this bill.

"This bill targets environmentally sensitive areas throughout New Jersey especially the Highlands, Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay. This legislation takes the side of developers interests over public interest. It takes the side of sprawl and over development over protecting water supply and natural resources," said Jeff Tittel.

Logging on State Lands The Senate also passed a bill to open our state parks up to commercial logging operations while sending the profits to the General Fund, not forest stewardship projects.Our public parks and forests are held in the public trust and should not be destroyed for commercial interests.The bill does not protect our most sensitive environmental resources such as wetlands and stream buffers from the impacts of logging.

"This bill is dangerous opening up our public lands for logging without any DEP rules or enforcement.This bill is all about the privatization of our public lands for corporate profit at the expense of the environment.These lands belong to all of us and we must protect them from being exploited by these commercial logging operations," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Increased Tax Credits for Builders The Senate also increased tax credits for special interests and corporations under the "Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Act" from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.Tax credits under the "Grow New Jersey Assistance Act" will also increase from $200 million to $400 million.4% of the Corporate Business Tax is dedicated to environmental programs including watershed protection, cleaning up environmental sites, retro fitting diesel for school buses, and fixing our state parks. The Senate is taking money away from these programs to fund tax credits for developers instead.National studies show that these subsidies do not create jobs, but enrich those getting the funds.

Delaying and Weakening Water Quality Planning In January the Senate passed a bill to roll back and delay important pollution reduction rules to protect our water quality.The bill took the side of builders over clean water and the health of New Jersey's families by delaying updated water quality regulations for two years.The rules determine where sewer lines can do, determining where future growth will be.Earlier rules would have removed 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres from sewer service, but the delay has allowed the DEP to weaken the rules and open more areas to sewer service. The new law would also allow for sewers extensions even if the local treatment plant does not have capacity and approvals can move forward with only partial wastewater management plans in place.The EPA opposed the bill out of concerns it will result in violations of the Clean Water Act.

"New Jersey has some of the most polluted waters in the nation and instead of cleaning up our waters they are rolling back vital protections,"said *Jeff Tittel.*

"The Democrats in the Senate are more concerned with taking care of special interests than protecting our environment, drinking water, and the health of our families.This is the power of special interest money threatening our environment and our future," Jeff concluded."The Senate needs to follow their counterparts in the Assembly and post this resolution at their next floor session."

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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