Governor Chris Christie is dismantling 30 years of environmental protections through a series of budget cuts, Executive Orders, Red Tape reviews, transition reports, privatizations, and DEP reorganization. He has become a climate skeptic, (would) repeal the Highlands Act, eliminating programs and cutting substantial funding for initiatives dealing with greenhouse gases and climate change.
The only thing he has attacked as much as the teacher's union has been the environment, though not as publicly.
Now Governor Christie says he is skeptical of climate change and has eliminated key programs dealing with greenhouse gases, cut $460 million from clean energy programs, and canceled mass transit projects. We believe he is on the verge of eliminating New Jersey's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
On the regulatory front, the administration has conducted a series of stakeholder meetings dominated by industry representatives as a cover to weaken regulations. There are existing proposals that would weaken stormwater, wetlands, water quality planning, and other key rules. Abandoning these regulations will undermine water quality and flood prevention. With regards to site remediation, the Governor is basically allowing the industry to rewrite regulations.
The amount of proposed cuts and weakening of environmental programs is alarming. In the history of New Jersey, we have never seen so many attacks on the environment happen so quickly.
Under the Governor's DEP transformation plan, Christie is removing the most senior and knowledgeable staff and replacing them with rubber stamps for applicants. People who come in for permits are called "clients" and the DEP works for them. The Governor supports the privatization of key government functions including land use, meaning consultants that work for developers will be reviewing their own permits. There are also attempts by the administration to privatize state parks, which could limit public access and allow for logging.
The Governor's Executive Orders prohibit New Jersey from having rules or standards that are stricter than the federal government's. Historically, New Jersey needs stricter rules because we have more environmental problems than most states.
Under his so called streamlining government he is actually trying to weaken public participation and environmental protection without actually streamlining government.
Under the guise of Christie's Red Tape Review, the bill is being used to dismantle environmental programs. We believe that this violates federal memorandum laws between the EPA and the State of New Jersey. This is an attack on environmental safeguarding, public health and safety. The concern is that this is being used to weaken environmental protection under the guise of streamlining. This bill eliminates subjective oversight, transparency, and will greatly impact the environment, public health, and safety.
The Governor's appointments made to Highlands Council were clearly a message that he does not care about protecting the water supply of the people of New Jersey. The Christie Administration wants to repeal the Highlands Act, but the legislature will not let him do so. He is trying to pack the Highlands Council with extremists who have actually sued to repeal the Highlands Act — the very Act they are supposed to implement. Through restricting its implementation, eliminate its funds, stack the board with pro-development members and weaken DEP regulations, making it essentially meaningless. The Highlands Act was passed to protect the drinking water for more than half of the people in New Jersey, and Governor Christie's budget cuts and executive orders put that drinking water at risk.
The Christie Administration's support for the weak DRBC fracking rules in the Marcellus Shale puts New Jersey's water supply at jeopardy. Not only are the proposed rules weak, but this will also cause destruction to our forest and threaten our water supply. Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale involves horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, fracking. This requires mixing millions of gallons of water with toxic chemicals. Toxic pollution from fracking would directly damage the river and contaminate Delaware River, a critical source for drinking water. The Governor took the side of the gas industry in Pennsylvania over protecting the water supply of the people of New Jersey.
Where the Governor has taken positive environmental positions they are not in areas where he has jurisdiction. Such as a coal plant in Pennsylvania or LNG plants off our coast. Where he has jurisdiction he has done the opposite by putting pipelines and power lines through the Highlands.
Governor Christie's proposal for Barnegat Bay is at best mediocre and in some areas it is outright dangerous. He made a weak regulatory proposal for Barnegat Bay that does not adequately protect the Bay and does not set a standard to actually clean the Bay. When Governor Christie ran he promised that he would protect Barnegat Bay and deal with the cooling towers issue at Oyster Creek, he has done neither. He has taken the side of the polluter over the Bay with his decision to side with Exelon. The Governor's proposal will add more time and delay without actually fixing Barnegat Bay.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. There is a whole series of rules, regulations, standards and programs that are at risk. We have not yet seen the outcome of the recommendations from all of the task forces and stakeholder meetings; we're only beginning to see them implemented.
The Democrats, who supported the budget and stripping the Clean Energy Fund, have failed to stand up for the environment. They are pushing bad bills, including one that prohibits NJ standards from exceeding federal standards. Below is a summary of the Governor's first year:
Government officials have been given authority to weaken environmental protections in favor of developers, undermining state and federal regulations.
Stakeholder meetings have been held on the Highlands, Barnegat Bay, beach access rules, air, Water Quality Planning Rules, Category 1 flood hazards, and energy. These meetings were attended mostly by industry insiders are being used as an excuse to weaken rules.
The Red Tape Review Group report is out and its recommendations undermine environmental regulations, protect special interests, and limit public participation.
The Privatization Task Force report calls for the privatization of parks and state forests.
An executive order placed a moratorium on all rules, preventing the implementation of more than 28 environmental rules, including regulation of perchlorate in drinking water.
An EO prohibiting New Jersey rules from being stricter than federal rules has been implemented, putting our drinking water at risk. New Jersey's standard for drinking water contaminants is a million-to-one cancer risk. The federal standard is one in 10,000.
Stopped the standard for Per chlorate in drinking water.
Government programs that are unfunded mandates to towns have been banned, potentially eliminating protections for health and public safety.
An administrative order extended until April 2011 the DEP implementation of Water Quality Management Planning Rules that are more than 13 years in the making.
Industry lobbyists are rewriting all 15 technical regulations for the cleaning up of contaminated sites.
Rewriting of the Energy Master Plan, which will weaken our goals for clean energy.
Transformation Plan for DEP that replaces knowledgeable staff with people who are just rubber stamps for these clients.
He has eliminated the new standard for PFOA to protect the New Jersey citizens from a toxin in Teflon production that studies have shown is dangerous to humans.
Governor Christie's budget eliminates more than $600 million in environmental, clean energy and transit programs have been eliminated, including:
The Clean Energy Fund was cut by $52 million in FY2011. Corzine took $30 million in FY2010, and Christie further cut it by $158 million that year.
The Retail Margin Fund, which helps businesses to build cogeneration and combined heat and power sources, was cut by $128 million in FY2010 and $13 million in FY2011.
DEP funding is at historic lows, with funding for parks cut by 40 percent.
The elimination of $10 million in payment in lieu of taxes to communities for open space.