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DEP ACO Excuse to Get Rid of Enviro Protections

Date : Tue, 6 Nov 2012 13:27:18 -0500

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2012 Contact:Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

DEP ACO Excuse to Get Rid of Enviro Protections Yesterday DEP Commissioner Bob Martin signed an Administrative Consent Order waiving compliance with CAFRA, Flood Hazard Area, and wetlands protections for infrastructure rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.The DEP is using the storm to get rid of environmental protections.This is not about helping local governments and state agencies rebuild quickly.This is the dismantling of environmental protections hiding behind the disaster.This is not going to work because we are placing infrastructure back in vulnerable places.As we rebuild the shore we need to implement good planning and make sure we are not putting people, businesses, and property in harm's way.The Jersey Shore must be rebuilt but with this storm comes the opportunity to put our infrastructure in secure locations.We should be planning better to protect our roads, bridges, sewer treatment plants and other key infrastructure instead of giving waivers from DEP regulations to rebuild them in the same vulnerable locations.

"The storm is being used as an excuse by the Christie administration to eliminate environmental protections.His ACO is being done without proper review or oversight and will end up making flooding worse in the long term. Rebuilding the infrastructure in the same place that is vulnerable is just a recipe for the next disaster," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*."We must do emergency repairs and start the process of rebuilding.But we must do it right, in a way that protects the environment because otherwise we are only going to make flooding worse and have more destruction the next time." Instead of planning our infrastructure better, under this ACO we are simply rebuilding in the same vulnerable place.To prevent the damage from occurring again so infrastructure should be elevated or moved to a safer place and this ACO discourages that type of planning.The projects must maintain the current hydraulic flow currently on the site, but that may be the problem in the first place and why the infrastructure failed.

"We need to allow for government agencies to do emergency repairs and rebuild infrastructure but we can do it in a way that is efficient and fast without eliminating wholesale environmental rules and protections," said Jeff Tittel. The location of these projects is based on outdated mapping.The Christie administration is dragging its feet on adopting the new FEMA flood maps and we may be rebuilding infrastructure in flood prone areas without even knowing it.

"This open ended procedure could impede New Jersey from getting federal disaster relief since municipalities will not have permits and cannot prove these are lawful activities.We are concerned the EPA may step in due to potential violations of the Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management Act and actual violations that lead to environmental destruction," said Jeff Tittel. The DEP is only allowing legally existing infrastructure to be rebuilt, but who is checking to ensure the project has permits on file?The project just needs verification by any state, county, or municipal official or an engineer.There is no standard for the review of the project.There is no oversight to ensure the plans are accurate and will not impact resources.There is no transparency and opportunity for public review.During construction and scouring environmental resources and flow conditions could be disturbed, making conditions on the site worse.We could be adding more fill in wetlands and Flood Hazard Areas, adding to more flooding in the future.Since there is no oversight who will be certifying that they are staying within their footprint or widening it?Next the DEP will say it is only slightly larger and start waiving those requirements as well.

"Just because an engineer signs off on something doesn't make it accurate or legal.Every land use or wetlands violation has been signed off on by an engineer," said Jeff Tittel. We need the DEP to do a better job of enforcing CAFRA, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, and Flood Hazard Areas and violations of the regulations, especially with development in the wrong places and that encroaches on dunes.Dunes are critically important for property protection and the environment.Infrastructure should not be rebuilt in these areas and the DEP should not be waiving standards to allow those projects to move forward. The DEP also allowed municipalities to clear streams before the storm without permits.

"The stream clearing and waiving of land use permits is a one-two punch.They are using the flood as an excuse to get rid of environmental protections and standards without proper review and oversight, without penalties and enforcement.The flood which is a terrible disaster and tragedy for many is being used by the administration to deregulate and eliminate environmental protections in coastal areas leading to more flooding and more problems, not less. Under this ACO you could build a road through a wetland to fix a culvert or fill in a flood hazard area to fix a bridge, which will only create more problems," said Jeff Tittel This is part of the ongoing weakening of protections under the Christie administration.Governor Christie weakened land use tools within the DEP that prevent sprawl in flood prone and wetland areas.His administration has rolled back the stormwater and flood hazard rules, removing key protections like zero net fill and stream buffers, increasing erosion and sedimentation in our waterways.The DEP has proposed a waiver rule that is so vague that virtually any development project can skirt the rules of critical environmental programs.They could apply for a waiver under this rule instead of waiving three entire rules.

"Dick Cheney said no disaster should go unexploited to help you get your political agenda through and that is what we see here," *said Jeff Tittel*."This is not about red tape.The DEP can easily streamline processes.This is about getting rid of environmental protections and oversight." You can view the ACO here: http:www.nj.gov/dep/special/hurricane-sandy/docs/ao20121105.pdf<a>

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2012-11-06 10:27:18

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