Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NJDEP nominee sails through committee

"DEP desperately needs leadership, management and direction, " Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner designee Bob Martin told members of the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday at his confirmation hearing in Trenton.

If anyone disagreed with that assessment, or with Governor Chris Christie's choice of Mr. Martin as the person to provide that leadership, management and direction, it wasn't obvious, as his nomination sailed through the committee without a ripple of opposition.

That outcome was not a foregone conclusion, as a few environmental activists, prejudging the new governor to be 'anti-environment,' have been campaigning to submarine several of his early initiatives.

For example, in a March 1 news release, on the eve of the first meeting of the governor's Red Tape Review Group, the Sierra Club proclaimed:

"The war on the environment begins. These meetings are an excuse to weaken environmental protections and turn New Jersey over to the special interests. The Christie Administration is hiding behind red tape as a way to weaken protections."

When Gov. Christie announced the formation of a panel to investigate the possible privatization of some government functions, the Sierra Club called that effort "part of an overall plan to weaken environmental protections and enforcement in New Jersey. "

"Outsourcing could give the Highlands Council over to Hovnanian or air permitting over to DuPont," declared Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

The majority of the state's numerous environmental organizations, however, have played no part in the attacks, apparently deciding to give the new administration the chance to prove itself.

One group that supported Christie's election--the New Jersey Environmental Federation--said yesterday that Martin " has the kind of private sector experience we need in the department and strong pro-environmental positions."

For his part, Martin did not appear at all defensive about his role or that of the agency he will be leading.

"DEP is broken and needs to be fixed," he told the committee. "We must and we will make dramatic changes to how we fundamentally do business at at the DEP. I reject the premise that we must choose between a healthy environment and a vibrant economy. We can have both with the right leadership and our resolve to changing the old paradigm. "

What do you think? Is DEP broken? Is Bob Martin the guy to fix it? What are your thoughts about the governor's plans to fix the state's economy? Is a radical change at the DEP necessary to keep existing business and entice new business into the state? Use the comment box below. If it isn't visible, activate one by clicking on the tiny 'comment' line.

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