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Gov. Christie Trying to Hide our Dirty Air

Date : Thu, 13 Sep 2012 12:36:41 -0400

For Immediate Release
September 12, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Gov. Christie Trying to Hide our Dirty Air Today National and New Jersey Sierra Club submitted comments on the Governor's plan to rollback important air quality standards.Instead of implementing policies to improve our air, the Governor is playing games with the data and trying to change the State Implementation Plan (SIP) under the Clean Air Act.There has been no overall improvement in New Jersey's air quality so the Governor wants to weaken the standards instead.They are proposing to move monitoring stations and eliminate ones in some of the most polluted areas of the state such as the Ironbound section of Newark and Elizabeth.The administration is using the recession and a downturn in energy use to justify rolling back air quality protections.The DEP is asking the EPA to re-designate the non-attainment areas in New Jersey for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to attainment based on those changes in monitoring, decreased emissions based on decreased energy use, and the Governor's programs, even though they will actually increase air pollution in the long run.

"This is nothing but a smokescreen to cover up their dirty record on clean air.Instead of doing their job and cleaning our air they are trying to change the data, which is shameful.What they are proposing is not to clean up our air but to cheat the public," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.*"Sierra Club will vigorously oppose reclassification on the SIP at the EPA." New Jersey has been in a recession the last couple of years resulting in decreased energy use.People have been driving less do to unemployment, businesses have been using less energy and facilities have not been running at full capacity, resulting in less air emissions.More people have been taking mass transit because of the recession with PATH having a record year.High energy costs have led to a reduction in energy across sectors.It has also been more rainy than usual the past two years, resulting in cleaner air readings.The DEP is only using data from the past two years to make our air appear on paper cleaner than it really is.

"By cherry picking data and not looking at long term trends they are trying to fix the system to allow them to weaken environmental protections and have more air pollution in New Jersey,"said Jeff Tittel. The air in New Jersey for the last decades has been getting dirtier. Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data from the EPA shows increases in pollutants in our air.The DEP is cherry picking data so they can weaken rules and regulations and rollback clean air standards and enforcement. Major studies by groups such as American Lung Association show New Jersey still has some of the worst air quality in the nation and DEP is playing with the numbers instead of fixing the problem. The American Lung Association's 2012 State of the Air report graded 16 counties in New Jersey.11 counties received an F grade and two others received a D regarding high ozone days. The administration is claiming their policies such as the Strategic Plan and the Energy Master Plan will meet long term pollution but these programs are not permanent or enforceable.The state does not directly regulate particulates.There are secondary emissions that are not enforceable either. Rather the Governor's policies will make air pollution worse.The Strategic Plan will allow for more sprawl and development especially in the Highlands, Pinelands, and around Barnegat Bay.The Energy Master Plan slashed our clean, renewable energy goals and shifted the state back to relying on fossil fuels.The administration has not implemented a policy to look at the cumulative impacts of air pollution and develop health-based standards. The DEP did not get the reductions in air pollution from enhanced inspection and maintenance programs and have actually delayed requirements for inspections of automobiles.

"Just like on water quality standards, the administration is fudging the numbers instead of taking action to improve our environment," *said Jeff Tittel*. The administration does not address their policies that will make air quality worse such as subsidizing the Xanadu megamall, delaying the Sulfur rule, widening the Parkway, and increasing transit fares.Automobiles safety inspections have been delayed and extended potentially adding more pollution to our air.The Governor has diverted $279 million from the Clean Energy Fund this year alone to close budget gaps.The Governor pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Initiative and refused join other northeastern states in Kansas v. EPA a lawsuit which challenges the proposed Cross State air Pollution Rule.These programs and policies will result in more pollution down the road. The Governor has supported the construct of three new natural gas plants in the state that will receive larger ratepayer subsidies than renewable energy sources.The increased air pollution from these fossil fuel plants will be especially negative in the Ironbound section of Newark.

"We have not turned the corner on clean air, on some days you cannot even see the corner.This year we have had many advisory days.People in Newark may have to buy gas masks but the Christie administration will say the air is okay," said Jeff Tittel. The Governor is weakening compliance and enforcement programs, especially when it comes to air.Fines collected from all polluters are down but air pollution fines have seen the largest decrease.Recent reports found air pollution fines over the past four years are down from $13.8 million to $2.1 million.Violation notices across all DEP programs are down to 5500 last year versus 6900 in 2008.On top of that the amount of fines that are collected are down and the amount is often reduced from what was initially proposed by the DEP.

"How does the administration know who will achieve pollution reductions when there is no one at the switch watching and the polluters and they are being treated like customers?" asked Jeff Tittel.

Jeff continued"The Christie administration by weakening enforcement, delaying key parts of the SIP and widening highways will actually be increasing air pollution.They are going to try to use this scam as a way to get around EPA oversight as the air gets worse because of their policies." Communities and the environment are paying the cost of mercury and toxic air pollution from these dirty fossil fuel plants.Particulate matter comes mostly from coal and diesel emissions.According to the 2010 /Toll from Coal/ report, 531 people in New Jersey die each year from coal related deaths. There are 445 hospitalizations and 987 heart attacks in New Jersey from coal plants. Close to 30% of the children in Newark has asthma and instead of improving air quality the DP is closing the Ironbound monitoring station. We are going to be challenging these changes with the EPA since the EPA has oversight.

"You can play all the games you want but when a child has an asthma attack or a senior citizen cannot breathe all your games you play do not matter, you cannot hide that.It is about protecting the public. We can see through their games even with all the smog," said Jeff Tittel. The comment period on the proposed changes to the SIP ends today.The changes can be viewed here:<a>

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-09-13 09:36:41

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