Thursday, April 15, 2010

A new role for the NJDEP: Economic Growth

DEP building

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Bob Martin told lawmakers on Monday that, while the environment is still Mission #1, he sees a second, important role for the agency—helping to revitalize the state’s economy.

In testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee, Martin said he’s planning to name a new Assistant Commissioner for Economic Growth and Green Economy.  Among other duties, that person will oversee a new “one-stop-shop” for businesses and individuals seeking environmental permits.

The change comes in response to the business community’s experience of the DEP as the place where permits go to die. Or, at least, to languish for periods so long  that the original business opportunity that prompted the application is lost.

This way of conducting state business has been just fine with a number of environmental groups who cling to the sophomoric notion that all business is evil and all growth is sprawl.

But it’s had the unintended (to be charitable) consequence of  discouraging businesses from expanding in New Jersey. In some cases, frustrated business owners have chosen to abandon New Jersey altogether, moving their operations (and tax revenues and jobs) to more business-supportive states, like Pennsylvania.


Martin’s efforts to “change the culture” at the DEP were generally applauded by members of the Budget committee, Republicans and Democrats alike. One legislator confessed to once flirting with the idea of  moving his own business out of state. 

We checked yesterday with the DEP’s Press Office and learned that Commissioner Martin is “considering several strong candidates” for the Assistant Commissioner’s post and is expected to announce his selection in a couple of weeks.


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