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OLS Audit: DEP Not Collecting Fines or Permit Fees, Letting Developers Off the Hook
Date : Wed, 17 Jul 2013 11:33:56 -0400
Letting Developers Off the Hook
For Immediate Release
July 17, 2013
Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100
OLS Audit: DEP Not Collecting Fines or Permit Fees, Letting Developers
Off the Hook
A report released by the State Auditor has found DEP is failing to
collect revenue for fee permits and penalties.The report unveils $1
million in uncollected penalties under Coastal and Land Use Compliance
and Enforcement along with 1,343 approved permits in the Division of
Land Use Regulation with no paid bill.Further the deposit of some checks
was unverifiable and fee required permits were being issued despite no
payment being received. The report calls on DEP to verify that permit
fees have been received by the DEP before the issuance of permits.The
report is based on the DEP compliance and enforcement data for Fiscal
Years 2011 and 2012.
"Not collecting fines sends a signal to violators that even if you get
caught you are let off the hook.At a time when DEP is at one of the
lowest levels for staffing and budget in decades, not to collect on
fines not only hurts the budget but the environment.People who violate
our environmental laws and regulations have seen a drop in enforcement
actions and now they realize that even if they are assessed a penalty
they do not have to pay it.This undermines compliance with our laws
because when there is no force in enforcement people feel like they can
get away with violations and more pollution," said Jeff Tittel,
Director NJ Sierra Club.
Jeff continued, "Now you can get a permit from DEP without having to
pay for it and now if you do not comply with the permit there may be no
enforcement action or a penalty you do not have to pay."
The report calls for more increased oversight of the Coastal and Land
Use Compliance and Enforcement collection of penalties as the unit had
"We have been calling for these reforms for years to make sure that
those who violate our laws pay the fines that have been assessed to them
but importantly go out a develop properties and apply for more permits
when they are deadbeats," said Jeff.
Making sure people who violate our coastal laws and pay a penalty is
even more important as we recover and rebuild after 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.Letting violators off the hook without paying sends a very bad
signal to people along the coast.At a time when they are so many out of
state builders working down the shore, this sends a very bad signal that
if you break our environmental laws you will get away with it.
"At a time when we are rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy strict
enforcement is even more important, especially as you do not need a
permit to rebuild.Without the threat of enforcement and oversight there
will be more mistakes and violations made.We may end up paying the price
with more building in the wrong places, the destruction of more natural
resources, and more flooding," said Jeff Tittel.
The State Auditor report follows a DEP report that found overall
enforcement actions by DEP have dropped by over half since 2008.There
were 29,579 enforcement actions that year; 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. Inspections are down
in some program areas, with the biggest drop in land use from 287 in
2008 down to 78 in 2012.Investigations in Land Use plummeted from 1174
in 2008 to 651 in 2012. In Land Use enforcement actions dropped from 703
in 2008 to 276 in 2012.
This lack of fiscal oversight comes as the DEP is 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.
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.
"With less oversight and no enforcement it means that not only is the
fox guarding the hen house if he gets caught he doesn't have to pay,"
Jeff concluded, "These reports taken together are a one-two punch
about the Christie administration rolling back environmental protections
and weakening enforcement.Now violators are called customers but
evidently the customers do not have to pay."
To access the State Auditor report visit:
To access the DEP full Enforcement and Compliance report visit:
-- Kate Millsaps Conservation Program Coordinator NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club 609-656-7612 _________________________________________________________ NJ-Sierra-Chapter-Ex-Committee List Info & Archives: http://lists.sierraclub.org/archives/NJ-EXCOM.html - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - To view the Sierra Club List Terms & Conditions, see: http://www.sierraclub.org/lists/terms.aspReceived on 2013-07-17 08:33:56
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