Where are our Legislative Environmental Champions?
By Jaclyn Rhoads, Ph.D.
Every year in June, legislators scramble to get their bills finished before summer recess. Deals are made, and usually the environment gets sacrificed. Some years are worse than others, and 2012 will rank high on the list for environmental deregulation.
The Permit Extension Act of 2012 (S743/A1338) passed easily. Nearly every legislator voted for this act, which claims to create new jobs but in reality only hands builders more time to delay projects, wait for values to rise and make more money while escaping compliance with any environmental protection adopted since 2007. If the legislature truly wanted to generate jobs, then it should have required permit holders to start building within the next three years to get its environmental exemptions. The Act doesn’t provide any incentives for moving forward on projects – only for delaying further. Worse in many ways, environmentally sensitive areas like the Pinelands, Highlands and Barnegat Bay are now included, allowing developers to skirt around environmental protections even in these areas that have passed within the past six years.
If that isn’t bad enough, the resolution to override DEP’s new “Waiver Rule” was passed by the Assembly but held from a Senate vote by the Senate President, south Jersey’s own Stephen Sweeney. Were deals made with the Governor for some goodies? We will never know but the signs are all there, since the resolution enjoyed wide support among Democratic lawmakers. The resolution, SCR59, would have stopped the Waiver Rule from going into effect, now scheduled for August 1st. DEP adopted the Waiver Rule to authorize widespread, discretionary waivers of environmental protections for the benefit of developers and polluters who don’t want to follow the law.
Not only have the legislature turned their back on environmental protections, but the state will run out of funds for open space, historic and farmland preservation this year. The Governor had promised to protect Barnegat Bay and fund open space preservation, but both the Governor and the legislature have apparently opted to put these goals off for another day.
There are a few environmental champions in the legislator, but unfortunately, so many are turning their backs on important bills. Learn how your Assemblyperson and Senator voted for these bills, and call them with your concerns.
(Click on this link – http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ and enter bill number on the right side of the page under Bill Search, click on the bill and at the bottom of the page select roll call to view the legislators vote.)
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