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More Pollution With Less Enforcement

Date : Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM

For Immediate Release

July 12, 2013

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

More Pollution With Less Enforcement

DEP has just released data for compliance and enforcement for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. These reports are supposed to be released annually, but have been behind schedule under the Christie administration. The FY 2011 and 2012 are years late and show a very disturbing trend.

"The Christie administration has created a polluter"s holiday. The amount of violations has not gone down, but we have seen a significant drop in enforcement actions. Even if polluters get caught they are let off the hook and may not be penalized. The people of New Jersey are left to suffer from more pollution. If you have more inspections and the same compliance rate the number of enforcement actions should go up, not down. They are either looking the other way or they are not enforcing when violations occur," said Jeff Tittel, Director NJ Sierra Club.

Overall enforcement actions by DEP have dropped by almost 60%. In 2008 there were 29,579 enforcement actions; in 2012 13,555 actions. This number is even more staggering since the number of inspections is actually up and the compliance rate stays the same. If compliance remains the same, enforcement actions and violations should have increased as well with more inspections but have not. In water quality there has been a decrease in compliance.

The one area that shows an increase in compliance is underground storage tanks. This program was privatized under the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) program in 2009. The number of inspections in this area has gone down from 1496 in 2008 to 1012 in 2012 under the privatized program. We do not know if these are accurate without independent verification.

Inspections are down in some program areas. In the air program the number of inspections has gone down from 881 in 2008 to 590 in 2012. The biggest drop in inspections is in land use from 287 down to 78. Solid waste inspections have decreased from 3001 in 2008 to 2127 in 2012. Inspections are routine and done annually at some facilities or sites.

"Inspections keep regulated entities on their toes and are an important deterrent. If they think they are going to get inspected they are more likely to follow their permits and environmental laws. If they do not think they will be inspected they are more likely to take short cuts," said Jeff Tittel. "By putting force in enforcement polluters are less likely to violate environmental laws and create pollution."

DEP investigations are triggered by a complaint or reported problem. Investigations are down in certain areas. Investigations for water supply dropped from 178 to 101. Land use plummeted from 1174 to 651.

In hazardous waste investigations have dropped from 800 in 2008 to 394 in 2012. This is especially important as fracking waste has come into New Jersey and the DEP has already issued a Notice of Violation to a site in Kearney for accepting waste that exceeded the limit they were allowed to take for Radium-226 and Radium-228.

Some programs have seen a major decrease in enforcement actions. In Land Use enforcement actions dropped from 703 in 2008 to 276 in 2012. Pesticides fell from 778 to 420. Water supply had 3718 enforcement actions in 2008 and dropped to 2488 in 2011 and 2811 in 2012.

"The Christie administration has stopped new standards from being adopted for numerous chemicals including arsenic, PFOA, and chlorate. Since we still have old weaker standards, there are even more threats to public health that are not being reported," said Jeff Tittel.

In the air program enforcement actions increased from 818 to 1147 even though overall inspections are down. There must be a problem if finding these additional violations. Despite the increase in enforcement actions, air pollution fines had the largest decrease, from $13.8 million to $2.1 million over four years.

"When the regulated entities are less inspected, investigated and issued violations it can lead to more pollutions and disasters because people tend to get lax. If they think there is a cop on the beat they will be more observant and efficient," said Jeff Tittel.

Water quality investigations (beach monitoring) have slightly increased from 684 to 802, however New Jersey still does not do proper monitoring after it rains and only tests beaches on Monday with equipment that takes three days to get results instead of updated equipment that could give results in a few hours.

This official DEP report comes about a year after an Asbury Park Press*special investigation found violation notices across all DEP programs were down to 5500 last year versus 6900 in 2008 as well as the proposed fines. Proposed fines covering seven major DEP programs, including air and water quality and land use, plunged from $31.6 million in fiscal year 2007 to
$9.1 million in fiscal 2011. Of the $9.1 million proposed in 2011, only
$7.5 million was collected- the lowest figure since 2006 and 15 percent lower than the 10-year average.

The DEP is also cutting Enforcement staff and a political appointee has been named Assistant Commissioner. DEP Compliance and Enforcement programs are seeing significant staffing cuts, impacting their ability to investigate and monitor violations. Since 2005 the number of inspectors has dropped by one-fifth from 209 to 166. Total staff is down from 313 to 259 with the department"s budget remaining flat since FY2008. With recent retirees those numbers could be lower.

"Former Asst. Commissioner Wolf Skacel who just retired was a person of integrity and had the knowledge to run this report. He was working under sometimes difficult conditions," said Jeff Tittel.

Last week John Giordano was appointed to the role of Assistant Commissioner for Enforcement. Giordano is a political appointment without a lot of hands on environmental experience or expertise who previously worked for the PA Department of Conservation under gov. Tom Corbett. Under Giordano and Corbett, Pennsylvania lifted a moratorium on gas drilling and fracking on public lands, eliminated environmental requirements and oversight, and killed the water line to Dimock.

What we are seeing is even more disturbing because of Hurricane Sandy. We need more enforcement and inspections in the aftermath of the storm to make sure rebuilding is being done right. It is especially important now with the Governor waiving permitting for rebuilding in his emergency orders.

This is part of the Christie administration rolling back 40 years of environmental protections. Polluters are being treated like customers. Under DEP Transformation if you report a violation you do not necessarily get an enforcement action or fine. If you do you get cited you can use the money to fix the problem even if you created it. They also allow alternative compliance such as planting trees instead of fixing the problem. Environmental protections are being gutted in the name of red tape. As inspections and violations are down, the DEP is rewriting key regulations to weaken protections. The Waiver Rule went into effect last year and will allow the DEP Commissioner to let polluters off the hook with waivers.

"At one time people who broke environmental laws were called violators, then they were called responsible parties and now they are called customers. This shows the problem in DEP is they now believe they work for polluters and people who break environmental laws, not the public who it is their job to protect. I guess that means the public has gone from being victims to suckers," said Jeff Tittel.

The consequences of weakening oversight and enforcement is more pollution in our environment. Lack of inspections and enforcement will mean more air pollution impacting public health, especially children with asthma. If we are unsure about underground storage tanks because the program has been privatized it may mean more oil pollution in our groundwater. Fewer enforcement actions in wetlands may mean more destruction of wetlands and more flooding. In hazardous waste it may mean more toxic sites later. There may be more chemicals that put people"s health at risk in our drinking water. Without enforcement of the solid waste program we may see more illegal dumping. Lack of inspections and enforcement at sewer plants will mean more water pollution.

"There are real consequences to weakening enforcement that will affect public health, safety and the environment and have real impacts for the people of New Jersey. That is why the Legislature required these reports and why this report is so disturbing," said Jeff Tittel.

To access the full report visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/docs/FY11-12HighlightsReport.pdf

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Received on 2013-07-12 06:50:00

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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