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Court Rejects Special Interests Joining Waiver Rule Lawsuit

Date : Fri, 12 Oct 2012 11:08:07 -0400

Lawsuit

For Immediate Release
October 4, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Court Rejects Special Interests Joining Waiver Rule Lawsuit The Appellate Division Court has denied motions by polluters and developers to participate in the waiver rule lawsuit.The NJ Builders Association, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, Chamber of Commerce, NJ Business and Industry Association filed invention requests and amicus briefs, which were rejected by the court.These groups coming in to support the rule shows that the Waiver Rule was written by and for special interests.The ones supporting the rule are polluters and developers, not the people of New Jersey.Instead labor, environmental, and consumer groups are opposing the Waiver Rule which allows the DEP Commissioner to exempt applicants from over 100 DEP programs and regulations. This rule is not only a threat to the environment, but due process and the right for the people of New Jersey to have their air, water, and communities protected from pollution.

"We are glad the court rejected these special interests groups as interveners.This rule is clearly written by and for special interests at the expense of New Jersey's environment.They did not need to be in the lawsuit because the Christie administration is already representing them," said Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club. 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.Many of ALEC's members also are active in the organizations that filed to intervene.

"The Waiver Rule is a very clear divide.It is the Christie administration, ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and special interests versus average citizens, labor and consumer groups.This is part of the Koch Brothers and polluter plan agenda across the country to get rid of environmental protections. We believe that the Governor's administration has overstepped their authority and what we consider is an abuse of power by taking the side of special interest over the people of New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel.

124 existing rules can be waived under the Waiver Rule allowing polluters and developers to be exempt from critical environmental and public health and safety protections including the Pollution Prevention Act, hazardous discharge regulations, and air pollution controls.Many of the Department rules that could be waived already have waiver provisions written into the regulations, based on the intent of the Legislature in adopting those protections.Adding more waivers is going to create loopholes big enough for bulldozers.

"This rule we can waiver goodbye to the environment. With this rule almost anything goes pay to play, inside dealing, and the public will end up paying the cost with either higher taxes or more pollution," stated Tittel. When looking at the Waiver Rule in light of the Governor's Executive Orders calling for no state rule stricter than federal standards and economic balance in rulemaking, the DEP Commissioner can waive compliance with any rule, regulation or permit for economic interests or relax standards to the less strict federal guidelines.If a rule is considered burdensome, conflicts with other rules, or the Department believes some net environmental benefit that is not defined can be achieved, rule provisions and standards can be waived.

"This is so liable for abuse not only could it mean almost anything, but is also means that if you have political connections or made campaign contributions you will get your waivers," Tittel said.

So far the DEP has received 13 waiver applications.Waiver requests have included weakening requirements for contaminated site remediation, building and filling-in flood hazard areas, and a request to permit activities that were completed without the required NJDEP permits.One would be to build a marina in an environmentally sensitive area in south Jersey.We believe the number is low because they are waiting for the legal challenge to be settled before the flood gates open.

"What we have seen so far is an attempt to get around existing enviro laws and reg with these waiver applications.Will the DEP uphold their own rules or waive them goodbye, which is why we are suing in the first place," said Jeff Tittel. The Assembly moved to block the rule in May by passing an oversight resolution but the Senate refused to act.The Legislature could have blocked the rule by passing resolutionSCR59(Buono) which would have declared the Waiver Rule inconsistent with Legislative intent and would have given DEP 30 days to make changes or rescind the rule.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 Legislature can still pass the resolution even after the DEP begins accepting waivers.

"This rule will have a tremendous impact on the environment and our health if it is allowed to stand," said Jeff Tittel. "We have to win this lawsuit and battle of the Waiver Rule because if we do not win it is game over for the environment in New Jersey because it will have a devastating impact on the people of New Jersey with more pollution, loss of open space, and more flooding."

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